Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Seed That Got Away

In a small flaw in the pavement, about 100 feet downhill from where I usually feed the birds, this small sunflower popped up. Usually, the pigeons and squirrels are extremely efficient about picking up every sunflower seed I leave them, but here is undeniable evidence that, at least on one occasion, they failed!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Giant, Pulsing Sea Blob Identified

(h/t Craig) So strange!:
It’s actually a Deepstaria enigmatica, said oceanographer Steven Haddock.

...This type of jellyfish is usually found in the south Atlantic Ocean; it has “oral arms […] terminating in curious hook-shaped organs.”

Porcelain Unicorn

Gabe sends this - the winning entry:
The contest, which received over 600 entries from around the world, invited aspiring filmmakers to create an original short film using the same six-line dialogue as the Cannes Lions award-winning Parallel Lines short films directed by RSA talents Carl Erik Rinsch, Greg Fay, Johnny Hardstaff, Jake Scott and Hi-Sim.

"Guns And Butter" Economy

Indeed! Made all the worse with the Mexican border trade, which thrives on the guns trade, courtesy of all those gun shows where Big Private Profits are made on Big Cartel Death:
The result is that America has become the true “Lord of War,” as the arms dealer motto goes. We are the leading arms supplier to the developing world and we are responsible for the majority of all weapons sales across the globe. Yes, we are so committed to selling instruments of death to the rest of the planet that military industries have almost tripled their share of the U.S. economy in just a decade.

The second bit of news came from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, whose new study shows that America is exporting our obesity crisis to Mexico. Coupling health statistics with U.S. export data since the North American Free Trade Agreement tore down Mexico’s agriculture trade barriers, researchers found that the Mexican market was flooded by American agribusinesses’ taxpayer subsidized commodities (corn, soybeans) and their processed derivatives. According to the report, that quickly wiped out Mexico’s local food economy, leaving its food system exactly “like the industrialized food system of the United States — characterized by the overabundance of obesogenic foods.” Not surprisingly, Mexican obesity rates have consequently skyrocketed.

Taken together, these export booms represent what could be called America’s new Guns and Butter economy. We are so desperate to export any “stuff” we can, we are now fattening up the world and arming it for permanent bloodshed.

Liking The Visuals In Calvin Harris' "Feel So Close"

What really caught my eye was the ballerina in the desert town. Evokes my own life, in some ways, and I'm sure the lives of many others!

Then, the landscape. Where is this place? The town looks like Oatman, AZ. The landscape looks like Albuquerque, or Reno. But then, it looks more Great Basin-ish than any of these places.

According to Wikipedia, it was filmed in Kern County, California. So, does that make CVHS Central Valley High School in Shafter, CA? But most of this isn't the Central Valley at all. That desert town is SO Great Basin-ish! China Lake-ish! But the suburban homes looks ALMOST like Rosamond. Hmmmm.....

The truck stop scenes (Reyes Polish) are in good ol' Kramer Junction! But that's not in Kern County! Wikipedia's got some suspect info here!

You see, that's what happens when you spend too much time hunting down Breaking Bad sites! It's never enough to just watch something on TV anymore.

And I'm not even sure I like the song either. Though I probably do by now!

[UPDATE: I updated the Wikipedia article with the location information.]

A Catholic Review Of "Damsels In Distress"

Best review yet! A bit of an odd review, but that’s Catholicism for you!:
Whit Stillman’s new film, Damsels in Distress, offers one of the most positive film endings in recent memory. What most reviewers of the film have neglected to mention is how the film makes a subtle suggestion about authentic Catholicism as a positive, counter-cultural option in the face of dominant cultural trends.

...At first, Violet’s charming naivety seems to be played for laughs, as if she is simply a comic character with an amusing form of mental illness. But by the time the movie ends, the audience is challenged to ask themselves: Isn’t Violet’s crazy dream-world in fact preferable? Is hers not the most beautiful way of choosing to transfigure the real world? Isn’t it really the dominant culture—concretely symbolized by the movie’s decadent “Cathar” heretic, Xavier (Hugo Becker)—that is truly crazy?

...Violet is introduced to us as the zany leader of a trio of girls on the fictional Seven Oaks campus who welcome a newcomer, Lily (Analeigh Tipton). Lily functions as Violet’s foil, something especially highlighted when Lily is later on seduced by the “Cathar” Xavier. But prior to that, the girls enlist Lily as part of their efforts to improve the campus with a program of beautiful clothes, perfumed soap, and tap-dancing as suicide-prevention therapy.

The distress from which these damsels need to be rescued is nothing less than the rampant boorishness of contemporary culture. But because the frat-boy mentality of the campus militates against any chivalric rescue, the damsels take matters into their own hands and instead pursue Violet’s nostalgic dream of a better world.

...It’s the movie’s suicide-prevention theme that got me thinking the most. It seems to me that the real theme of the film is the suicide of the West, with Violet operating as Whit Stillman’s proxy for offering a “suicide-prevention” program for the West.

...VIOLET: You probably think we’re frivolous, empty-headed, perfume-obsessed college coeds. You’re probably right. I often feel empty-headed… But we’re also trying to make a difference in people’s lives. And one way to do that is to prevent them from killing themselves... Have you ever heard the expression, “Prevention is nine-tenths the cure?” Well, in the case of suicide, it’s actually ten-tenths.

The grand dance finale of the film is preceded by the epiphany of the frat boy Thor (Billy Magnussen), wherein he is able to distinguish the colors of the rainbow for the first time. Earlier, Thor had been played for laughs as someone who had never learned how to identify primary colors. But it is his parents whom the film blames for his mis-education. And Stillman also has Thor make an eloquent appeal:

THOR: I don’t know about you but I don’t think anyone should feel embarrassed about not knowing stuff. What’s embarrassing is pretending to know what you don’t—or putting down other people just because you think they don’t know as much as you. I’m happy to admit I’m completely ignorant. That’s why I’m here and plan to really hit the books. The next time you see me, I’ll know more than I do now. I’ll be older, but also wiser—or at least know more stuff. For me, that’s education.

...Do we want to affirm Violet and her “international dance craze” or not? And what would that “international craze” be, other than the opposite of the Modernist heresy of decadent and barren boorishness that in this film goes by the name of “Catharism”? Would it not be the cultural fecundity of Violet’s own “Catholicism”?

Preppy Sadist

No surprise the GOP is going to nominate a Class-A jerk for Prez. Well, we keep saying we're going to do something about bullying. How about NOT voting for this sicko?:
BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. — Mitt Romney returned from a three-week spring break in 1965 to resume his studies as a high school senior at the prestigious Cranbrook School. Back on the handsome campus, studded with Tudor brick buildings and manicured fields, he spotted something he thought did not belong at a school where the boys wore ties and carried briefcases. John Lauber, a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney, was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality. Now he was walking around the all-boys school with bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye, and Romney wasn’t having it.

“He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” an incensed Romney told Matthew Friedemann, his close friend in the Stevens Hall dorm, according to Friedemann’s recollection. Mitt, the teenage son of Michigan Gov. George Romney, kept complaining about Lauber’s look, Friedemann recalled.

A few days later, Friedemann entered Stevens Hall off the school’s collegiate quad to find Romney marching out of his own room ahead of a prep school posse shouting about their plan to cut Lauber’s hair. Friedemann followed them to a nearby room where they came upon Lauber, tackled him and pinned him to the ground. As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Scottish Weather, Courtesy Of Prince Charles

(h/t Jerry)

Terrible Historical Analogies - Part XXXVI

This Richard Mourdock looks like a piece of work:
Referencing Lincoln’s speech, Mourdock said that as long as nearly half of Americans don’t pay taxes, “we are a house divided” that is presumably on the point to another fight, this time between the rich and the poor:
MOURDOCK: What he meant by that was that slavery was either going to be totally eliminated from the United States or it was no longer just going to be restricted to the Southern states, it was going to go everywhere. I am here to suggest to you that we are in a house divided. You know this past April, when our federal taxes were paid, 47 percent — 47 percent — of all American households paid no income tax. In fact, half of that 47 percent almost, actually got tax money back from the government that they never paid -– because a few years ago we revised the welfare program to make it part of the tax code. When 47 percent are paying no income taxes — they do pay Social Security — but they are not paying income taxes, and 53 percent are carrying the load, we are a house divided.
So, does this mean the homeless are going to set upon us with their stuffed shopping carts in a slow-motion replay of Pickett's Charge? And the righteous Republicans (who hate paying taxes even more than the homeless do) - are they going to respond with muskets and Minnie balls? The past is a hazy guide to the future, but no one should EVER want to emulate those dark Civil War days.

Obama's Finished Evolving On This

I liked what Jake posted yesterday on Facebook (whether his creation, or by others) regarding Obama's recent evolution on gay marriage:
Obama, Shantay you stay. Mitt Romney you are one fierce queen but you dont have what it takes. Now sashay away.
Obama is now finished evolving on the question. This move is so high-profile Obama won't be able to change his mind even if he wanted to. Obama HAS to start taking big risks if he wants to get the sluggish donation machine running again, and this is one way to do it. A game-changing move: analogous to when John McCain chose Sarah Palin as running mate (but smarter).

Joe The Plumber Makes A Mistake And Nearly Kills His Dog

I'm really puzzled about Joe The Plumber's decision-making abilities today.

Joe has decided to leave wicked Sacramento forever, and head towards the Big-Sky Country: Montana. Earlier today, as part of his manic effort to unload his personal belongings, he came to my workplace, and loudly informed the office staff that he wanted to find me ASAP. He told loud, R-rated jokes as the staff scrambled to locate me. Eventually, the office staff realized I was probably at Subway for lunch, so (with relief) they sent him down the street to find me there, which he eventually did.

Joe had been thinking of giving me his pickup truck, but he decided to give that to someone else. Instead, Joe wanted to give me a mountain bike (which was damaged, and required some repair). For some reason, my inspection of this bike couldn't wait. Perhaps he saw himself as inspired now that he's decided on a path forward in his life; I saw him as loud and embarrassing.

In the evening, he went to retrieve his own mountain bike, which is stored in my shed at home (and to which he has access). Later in the evening, he returned to my house for some reason I have yet to establish.

Joe said he saw the Honda sedan coming down the alley behind my house. Nevertheless, he didn't hesitate to open the passenger door of his van in order to let his Labrador retriever, Bella, leap down upon the pavement. Bella jumped down out of the van just as the Honda passed by. Bella was sideswiped by the car, and tossed.

According to Joe, despite being struck by the car, Bella did not seem seriously-injured. Instead, Bella interpreted the impact as chastisement, and was apologetic. The driver stopped, but after a few minutes Joe sent her on her way. Joe took Bella to Land Park (a favorite place) for some quiet time, and is keeping an eye on her this evening.

Today, Joe's decision-making processes seem even more questionable than usual. If he ever leaves town, I doubt he'll ever get to Montana without something derailing him on the way. Maybe he'll end up in Elko, or Salt Lake City, but maybe he'll actually get to Big Sky Country. Beware actually making it there, though. Living in a van down by the river is no picnic in a Sacramento winter, but it's a walk in the park compared to Great Falls in December.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Ome Henk - "Neem Een Ander in de Maling (Barbie Girl)"

(Not really Rammstein: the Dutch comic Ome Henk instead)

They're Going To Put That Weird, Creepy Town Near Hobbs, NM

Land O'Robots: wave of the future! Who needs people when, finally, you can have intelligent design!:
A $1 billion city without residents will be developed in Lea County near Hobbs, officials said Tuesday, to help researchers test everything from intelligent traffic systems and new wireless networks to automated washing machines and self-flushing toilets. Mayor Sam Cobb said the research facility, resembling an empty city, will be central to diversifying the area’s economy.

Gonna Be A Thunderific Day In El Paso!

And even Tucson! And the rest of Texas too, over the next few days, as the low trundles eastward!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Voting With Their Feet

The climate change deniers are increasingly getting denied:
The recent flight of insurance companies from leading climate change denial group The Heartland Institute isn’t just due to the group’s offensive Chicago billboard comparing scientists to serial killer Charles Manson.

...“The insurance industry has in some ways been the quickest to acknowledge and talk about the impacts of global warming, because it directly affects their business,” Daniel Souweine, campaign director for Forecast the Facts, told Raw Story. “They’re the ones who are going to pay for increased damage from extreme weather, flooding, sea level rise, etc. It’s already hitting their bottom line, and potentially hitting their bottom line even harder in the future.”

With a Facebook post on Monday, State Farm became the latest insurance company to withdrawal its funding from Heartland Institute, blaming their move on the group’s decision to launch their billboard. But far from just one more company deciding to withhold its support, State Farm’s decision personifies the increasing acceptance of global climate change and a concerted insurance industry push to adapt their business practices.

Quickclay Landslides; Or, Whatever You Do, Never, Ever Add A New Wing To Your Existing Barn!

I was reading this interesting blog, Olelog, and was startled to read about this weird, science-fiction-like earth conundrum I had never heard of before! The Rissa Quickclay Landslide of 1978!

Beware marine clay sediments that experience isostatic rebound after glacial epochs! Beware!

David Nachmanoff & Hardwater Will Be At Luigi's, In Davis

The Dave Nachmanoff Band and Hardwater will be playing at Luigi's, 213 E St., in Davis this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ($10; all ages). They promise a Folk-Rock Extravaganza!

Lock Yer Doors

Last night, about 12:30 a.m., I had just finished watering the grass on the front bank in front of my house, when I heard a repetitive clunking sound coming from up the street. I retreated to my porch and watched a fellow with black hair and a white T-Shirt (with a black square on the back) rapidly and systematically walk down the street and try to open a door on every parked car. Down the street, the fellow got lucky, and found an unlocked vehicle. He opened the passenger door of the Jeep 4x4, quickly plundered the glove compartment, and moved on.

I called the cops, but didn't expect a visit. Nevertheless, things likely being slow on a Monday evening, two police cars did indeed come. They asked about race (all I could say was 'not black') and checked out the vehicle. Then they took off, to see if they could find the malefactor.

I was surprised that someone with so much visible personal material in the passenger compartment (stuffed with camping equipment) would leave their vehicle unlocked. I was also surprised that the malefactor would be so brazen as to continue trying to open doors, when I knew he saw me, and could clearly see me watching him. Maybe my watchfulness prevented even more plundering of the vehicle!

In any event, lock yer doors. You don't know who is out there!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Martin Solveig & Dragonette - Hello

I posted this once before, but since this song opened iMPACT Contemporary Dance Theatre's show this last weekend, I thought I'd repost. A shout-out and hello to the Folsom dancers!

Unsung Heroes

(B. posted this on Facebook.)

DMTC's Titanic Slide

The last show of DMTC's "Titanic - The Musical" ends on Sunday afternoon. Time to strike the set!

But some unfinished business first.

During the show's run, after the first weekend, David Holmes (Tom Andrews) began making his final exit at the end of the show by sliding off the Titanic's tilting stage. The angle was steep enough that sliding off was both possible and visually effective.

But the cast yearned to give the Titanic slide a try too.....

Travis Nagler starts the party.

Mary Young.

Let strike commence!

One Last Look Under The Tilting Stage Of "Titanic - The Musical"

"Damsels In Distress"

Yesterday afternoon, Joe the Plumber and I went down to the Tower Theater and saw "Damsels In Distress".

Sacramento is even more represented in this movie than usual because both Greta Gerwig and Analeigh Tipton, both St. Francis High School alumni, are at the top of the movie's cast list.

(Justin Cerne is listed as choreographer, but I remember that when Sacramento's Jenifer Foote came to visit from New York last year, she said that Greta Gerwig was one of her dancing students, so maybe there is even more Sacramento on the screen here than many people realize.)

The movie is enveloped in a choking miasma of self-involved dialogue, but like in a Woody Allen film, that miasma is a feature, not a bug. The four young ladies at the center of the film are all very charming and attractive. They hold forth on various topics to charmingly idiotic extremes (I particularly liked Greta Gerwig as she defended the use of trite and hackneyed expressions in the English language, as representing the distillation of centuries worth of experience and wisdom).

Oddly enough, I thought the best monologue of the movie didn't come from any of the four young women at all, but from a minor character (Thor; played by Billy Magnussen). Thor's early education was stymied by over-involved parents, and the declaration of his intention to get an education is simultaneously very noble and the most ridiculous thing I've heard in years. A real gem, that monologue is! The best monologue, ever!

One of Salon's fashion reviewers, Mark Oppenheimer had an odd take on the movie. He couldn't precisely pin down the movie's era, based on clothing, and that non-specificity really bothered him. As a fellow who tracks down 'Breaking Bad' sites, I can understand that mental disturbance non-specificity creates (in my case, location), but it shouldn't really bother people who are outside the East Coast, Ivy League circuit. Once again, the miasma surrounding the movie is a feature, not a bug.

What does Roger Ebert think of "Damsels In Distress"?:
It's delightful and a little bewildering to find a 2012 comedy that evokes a world that exists only in the novels of P.G. Wodehouse. Whit Stillman's "Damsels in Distress" creates Seven Oaks College, a school so innocent and naive that only it could believe in itself. Its heroine, Violet Wister, is one of the daffiest characters in recent movies, who believes one of the noble callings of women is to date men who are their inferiors, and thus lift them up.

..."Damsels in Distress" is the fourth film (and the first since 1998) by Whit Stillman, who as a younger man, looked like F. Scott Fitzgerald and spoke like someone who had learned the language through sophisticated comic novels. He made a kind of movie nobody else was making, about rich and privileged young people moving in the very best circles — which is to say, their own. He called them the "urban haute bourgeoisie." They consider "yuppie" a term of praise. His "Metropolitan" (1990), about a young man hoping to win acceptance from such snobs, was a considerable hit, in part because no one had seen a movie like it unless one possibly running in black and white at 3 a.m. on TCM. Then came "Barcelona" (1994) and "The Last Days of Disco" (1998). What they had in common is that the supporting cast of a Fred Astaire comedy could have wandered in and not been noticed.

...Violet of course must have a posse; friends who are not quite as tall or (in her mind) not quite as pretty. They flank her, because Violet must always be centered. On the first day of the new school year, we meet them: Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke) and Heather (Carrie MacLemore), who both instinctively stand just a step behind her. Violet has ESP when it comes to picking out new recruits, and she and her friends sweep down upon Lily (Analeigh Tipton), a campus newcomer. Lily will be their new roommate. Thus will all of Lily's wardrobe, behavioral and boyfriend problems be handled for the next few years.

...The movie almost inevitably contains a campus musical, centering on Violet's new dance craze, the Sambola. This is not an inspired dance craze, nor is the musical destined for Broadway, but inspired by Violet, they are all perfectly rehearsed and keep on smiling, and their good nature is impossible to resist.
The last Greta Gerwig movie I saw was "Arthur", which I also saw with Joe The Plumber. What did Joe think of this film? Thumbs up!

Dogs In Cars: California

Keith Hopkins' social links:


Sunday, May 06, 2012

iMPACT Contemporary Dance Concert - Stages, Folsom Dance Arts - May 5, 2012

'Life in Color' - the theme of the iMPACT Contemporary Dance Concert, hosted by Stages, Folsom Dance Arts, at the Jill Solberg Performing Arts Theater, at Folsom High School, on May 5-6, 2012. Since a number of dance veterans were graduating from high school and moving on to college, however, tonight's show became a wonderfully-sentimental retrospective on growing up.

This is the first time I've been at Stages. Conceptually, it seems to be a somewhat complicated arrangement. Three dance companies (iMPACT Contemporary Dance, Folsom Ballet, and Sound Out Tap Company) function under the umbrella Stages organization. Stages coordinates a number of people with diverse training, a number of dance studios, and stresses youth education. Tonight, CORE Dance Collective was special guest.

Below: Bows. iMPACT's Director, Kelli Leighton (dressed in red; she is also CORE Dance Collective's Artistic Director) is brought on stage for roses. Dylan Gardener, a gifted dancer who is moving on to UCLA soon (and will be much missed), stands next to her.

There a number of highlights to the show. The opening, "Hello" (featuring Martin Solveig's song with the same name) was bright and happy. It was great to see Jacob Montoya's 'Thank Heaven for Little Girls' too (music by Maurice Chevalier).

Lots of great dancers. Too many to mention them all. If I had to mention one of the up-and-comers, it would be the sunny and musical Callyn Kammermeier.

One highlight of Act II was 'Blue or Pink?' The dance starts with Jacob Montoya as a big, impatient baby sucking his thumb, sitting in the middle of a nursery of crying 'infants'. He suggests they dance, which they proceed to do, to a number of pop songs featuring 'Baby' themes: 'Baby, One More Time' by Britney Spears, 'baby Got Back' by Sir Mix-A-Lot, etc. Jake is the most hilarious baby ever!

After the hilarity, the evening closed with a surprising and very moving tribute to Jeff Fehr, who died recently as a result of bullying.

I met Emily Kelly tonight (she's been doing musical theater at Sutter Street in Folsom: most recently in Nunsense II.

Attending exercise classes at Step One Dance Studio, I've become familiar with Fred Jonas over the past year. Fred's optimistic, easy-going charm has made him a popular figure at Step One. I knew Fred was connected in some way with Stages - he earnestly promoted Sound Out's December concert, for example - but I didn't realize HOW closely connected he was with everything here in Folsom until tonight. Since Fred's daughter, Renee Jonas, was one of the graduating seniors being feted in tonight's concert, it's clear that the entire Jonas family is a prime mover of the entire Folsom scene!

Below, Renee Jonas, with her father Fred. (Dagnabit, the camera's flash nearly shuttered Renee's eyes!) I think that's her on the promotional card, though (farther below).

Maybe I Should Have Worn A Moustache

The owner first observed me carefully as I scanned the merchandise, drawing conclusions from my Saturday-morning bedhead and stubble, before asking: "May I help you?"

I explained I wanted technical assistance featuring great range and capability. Poker-faced, the owner explained maybe an investment of $15,000.00 might suffice.

Reconsidering, I said maybe I can relax the technical specifications a bit.

Hundreds of dollars maybe, the owner thought, but the requirements would have to be quite specific, and quite clear.

I left to think things through.

Cutoff Low Coming To The Southwest

NM & Texas should get some rain from it!