Saturday, May 19, 2012

"Dark Shadows"

Interesting and fun movie. I particularly liked the precision of Barnabas Collin's (Johnny Depp's) lines. And I liked the set and the work done there:
The producers scoured the UK and Maine to find an appropriate fishing village to film Collinsport in, but couldn't find one that fit. Thus they constructed the whole town from scratch in Pinewood Studios.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Standing Up For The Consumer

Sounds like a story from The Onion, but apparently not:
An unusually large man in Wisconsin called the police recently after an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant decided he’d had enough fried fish and cut him off at 20 pieces.

...After watching Wisth devour 12 individual pieces of fried fish on Friday, May 11, the management decided that was quite enough. They intervened, explaining the restaurant was running out of fish and simply could not allow him to stay any longer.

Giving him eight more pieces as a courtesy, for a total of 20, the restaurant’s management sent Wisth on his way in hopes that the costly episode was behind them. That hope, however, was severely misplaced.

According to reporter Annie Scholtz, Wisth left the restaurant incensed, then he called the police. He returned two days later with a protest sign, and the television cameras were soon to follow.

...Despite their prior generosity, Wisth said he still plans to picket the restaurant every Sunday until his demand for a truly endless supply of food is met.

It's Safer Being An Agnostic

Image from Doctor When at B3ta.

(Because you really don't know what's on the Other Side, and it's best not to have too many illusions.)


J.: Let me show you what I have in the van! Look at this! Isn't it beautiful? It's a ten-inch diameter carousel, featuring four hand-painted porcelain horses! I bought it from *some guy* for $25.00, but I'm thinking it's got to be worth a thousand bucks, or even more!

M.: Yes, it's pretty.

J.: See the four horses? This red-white-and-blue horse here: those are the colors of the 'Hell's Angels'. The horse following it; the one that's replacing the 'Hell's Angel's': that's the 'Vagos'. That's me! And this other horse here; that's the 'Misfits'. This fourth horse here - the white one - that's the Creator, who will come and replace all of us when we soldiers are done.

M.: Hmmm! Let's put it in the basement, where it will be safer than rattling around in a van.

(Note: checking on the Internet, I'm thinking maybe around $120.00 value....)

Veep Suicide

The difference between campaigning and actually bearing some responsibility for what goes on:
While Newsweek touted New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez as a possible running mate for Mitt Romney, the erstwhile beneficiary of the hype all but killed her chances of getting the job by opening her mouth.

“I absolutely advocate for comprehensive immigration reform,” Martinez told reporter Andrew Romano. “Republicans want to be tough and say, ‘Illegals, you’re gone.’ But the answer is a lot more complex than that.”

With those words, Martinez inflicted multiple wounds on whatever slender chance she had to join the national ticket. First, she indicated support for the immigration agenda that President Obama promises to pursue if he defeats Romney in November. Second, the reforms the 43-year-old first-term Republican favors are opposed by every Republican member of the Senate (even those like John McCain, who used to support it) and a solid majority in the House. (In case there was any doubt, the same day Martinez’s interview appeared, Politico reported that the Romney campaign was seeking a “boring white guy” as a running mate.)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mojave Repeat Photography

Interesting Web Site, where they are collecting photos over time at specific places in the Mojave Desert, looking for changes, graphic and subtle, over time.

"Feel So Close" Location Hunt - Suburban & Desert Town Scenes

The suburban scene is located at the intersection of Clark and Lapis Streets, in Rosamond, CA.

The desert town is Randsburg, CA.

I do not know the Mojave Desert as well as Albuquerque, but I am pretty good at this location finding!

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

Donna Summer - Dim All The Lights (Ballad & Dance Version) (1999 Live)

Donna Summer - McArthur Park

Donna Summer - "Sunset People"

RIP, Donna Summer

Oh, this is sad! The most-important of all the disco singers of the 70's has passed on! Huge hits; huge influence!:
Donna Summer died Thursday after a battle with cancer. The 63-year-old Summer was known for her soaring voice and sensual purrs that made her a queen of disco when the genre was in its heyday in the 1970s. And it was a title she held well beyond those years.

...Born LaDonna Andrea Gaines in suburban Boston on New Year’s Eve, 1948, Summer was one of seven siblings in a church-attending family who encouraged studies and singing in equal measure.

An early fan of gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, Summer sang in a Boston rock band called Crow in the late 1960s, and left home for New York City at age 18 to find work on Broadway, which she did quickly by landing a role in a touring version of the hot Broadway show “Hair.”

She spent the next three years living and touring in Europe. There she met and married the singer Helmut Sommer, whose last name she adapted as her stage name.

While in Europe she also met Italian music producer Giorgio Moroder, whose early dance tracks were making an impact across Europe. Moroder and Summer started working together, resulting in their first hit, the seductive 17-minute-long dance floor epic “Love to Love You Baby.” On it, Summer moans in ecstasy throughout, seeming to climax with the music. A shortened version of it was released by then-hot label Casablanca in 1975, and peaked on the Billboard singles chart at No. 2.

That was the first of a string of songs that not only helped bring disco to the mainstream, but predicted the rise of both techno and house music. Among those were “I Feel Love,” “Bad Girls,” “She Works Hard for the Money” and “On the Radio.”

But unlike some other stars of disco who faded as the music became less popular, she was able to grow beyond it and later segued to a pop-rock sound. She had one of her biggest hits in the 1980s with "She Works Hard for the Money," which became an anthem for women's rights.

...Still, even as disco went out of fashion she remained a fixture in dance clubs, endlessly sampled and remixed into contemporary dance hits.

"Feel So Close" Location Hunt - Reyes Polish

Anyone want a lift?  on Twitpic

Aha! Kramer Junction!

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Damned If You Do

It's a lonely world for us skeptics:
The man facing blasphemy charges after he claimed water dripping from a statue of Christ in Mumbai was not miraculous but the result of a badly plumbed toilet is preparing to ask India’s Supreme Court to abolish the blasphemy law.

Sanal Edamaruku is accused by Catholic groups in Mumbai of breaking the Indian Penal Code, which outlaws “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings.”

Mr. Edamaruku, a rationalist who has spent 30 years debunking miracles and exposing fraudulent faith healers, denies the offense and claims the law is being misused in order to silence him.

One Result Of All Our Education Is That We Think We Make Great M.D.'s

I remember good old Dr. F. He had little more than contempt for his doctors, and second-guessed everything they said and did, even when they diagnosed a rare disease, and informed him he was going to "check out" soon. Yes sir, he didn't develop faith in his doctors until he was halfway across the River Styx:
A Wolters Kluwer poll out this morning finds that not only are most consumers turning to the Internet to answer medical questions, but that they also put strong faith in their own diagnosis. Among college educated Americans, 63 percent say they have “never” misdiagnosed themselves. Add in those who have say they’ve “rarely” made a wrong call and the number jumps up to 84 percent.

As for why all the Googling? About one-third of Americans say it has to do with access issues, and not wanting to wait to see a doctor, while another 23 percent argue that they can do just as good, if not better, than their physician in figuring out what ails them.

Inspired Mangling Of "My Way"

E. often sings to relieve stress, but her song versions are odd: misheard lyrics, misremembered concepts, implausible events (like when Jesus walked UPON men, as opposed to walking AMONG men). But sometimes, it's inspired - like a portion of her rendition of Frank Sinatra's "My Way":
I bit off more than I could chew
But I did it my way!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Princess Cruise Lawsuit

This is one of those stories where just about everyone involved made a decision that went wrong:
MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – A Panamanian man has filed a suit against Princess Cruise Lines after one of their ships failed to stop and help he and his companions who were adrift in disabled boat.

...Vazquez, 18, said he, Fernando Osorio, 16, and Elvis Oropeza, 31, set off for a night of fishing on Feb. 24 from Rio Hato, a small fishing and farming town on the Pacific coast of Panama.

...The boat’s motor broke down on the way back and the men drifted at sea for 16 days before seeing a cruise ship approach March 10.

Vazquez has said the men signaled for help, but the ship did not stop.

Osorio and Oropeza died later. Vazquez was rescued on March 22 near Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, more than 600 miles from where they had set out.

Ramos said the lawsuit includes testimony from two cruise ship passengers who have said they saw the disabled boat and reported it to a cruise representative on the Star Princess liner.

...Princess Cruises has said passengers never told the ship’s captain they saw a boat.

A Strange Dream About 'The Hit Of Hits'

I dreamt that DMTC's YPT performed a hip hop version of 'Kansas City', from "Oklahoma!", at the Varsity Theater.

The kids looked cute in dreads....

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ned Roscoe Goes To Federal Prison Today

So, today is the day. Last week, Ned sent an E-Mail to his friends and supporters. Here is a selection:

Preparation: If you’re interested, examine the course materials for SERE. Read Slavery by Another Name, the 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner by Douglas Blackmon. The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has been called the most important nonfiction book of the last hundred years. There’s a lot to be learned from William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, from the Manzanar literature, and from Cullen Murphy’s recent book on the Inquisition, God’s Jury. When Governor Blagojevich was incarcerated, the Chicago Tribune gave him excellent advice.

...Appeal: Notices of appeal have been filed for the sentence and the restitution. The next step is that transcripts are made and appellate counsel is appointed. I expect to have very little participation in that process. Don’t expect the cavalry to ride in or for justice to be done, any more than you should expect the tides to stop at the king’s command. When I was sentenced, I tried to correct some of the obvious points that were wrong in the record without getting huffy. If you’d like a copy of my allocution, send me an e-mail. It is good to tell the truth in all matters.

Going to camp: From Scouts, I know, when going to camp, concentrate on camping. Boys who call home really suffer. Boys who have parents visit lose the entire benefit of camping. What I know about setting up refugee camps is that one must begin with an initial assessment before services are delivered, no matter how pressing the need. I know from my time with the Nation of Islam that people should be treated like the kings and queens they are. Scouts may have heard me say A positive mental attitude is essential to success.

Coming Back: I’ll see you in 2016 if not earlier. If you want a biblical parallel, read Acts 20. The Lord is not done blessing me, or you either. Now, as the ship sails out of the harbor, think of Henley: “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” I hope that you’ll be able to say “I know the happiest man in the federal prison system. He is my favorite felon” and about my family “best thing that ever happened to them.” I am confident I will speak with pride and admiration about you and your deeds.

Tennyson wrote:

“Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

I asked Ned about his allocution. Allocution is defined as:
Generally, to allocute in law means "to speak out formally." In the field of apologetics, allocution is generally done in defense of a belief. In politics, one may allocute before a legislative body in an effort to influence their position on an issue. In law, it is generally meant to state specifically and in detail what one did and for what reason, often in relation to commission of a crime.

Allocution is sometimes required of a defendant who pleads guilty to a crime in a plea bargain in exchange for a reduced sentence. In this instance, allocution can serve to provide closure for victims or their families. In principle, it removes any doubt as to the exact nature of the defendant's guilt in the matter.
Because of the complicated nature of crime Ned is convicted of, and the references to other people and documents, I find it impossible to fully understand. Nevertheless, here is a sampling:





Mini-Dog Rescue

Preparing to leave home for work late this morning, I was surprised to notice Sassy the Chihuahua (from two houses down) lurking around the garbage cans in the alley behind my house. I thought: "What is she doing outside her own back yard?"

Sassy looked worried, and cowered a bit. Her nose was dry. I tried to slip Sassy under the back gate of her own yard, but the fit was too tight. Usually, when the son goes to work, the back gate gets opened every morning around 5 a.m. Sassy must have escaped, or been locked out, at that time, and been wandering the alley ever since.

I roused the grandmother in the house. In a few minutes, she went out her front door, walked around the block to the back alley, and called for Sassy.

Sassy cowered at first upon seeing her master. Sassy knows she was breaking a rule by being in the alley. But when the grandmother kindly scooped Sassy up in her arms and cooed to her in Spanish, the relief got the better of Sassy, and the little dog cried.

Mitt Romney, Gang Leader

There are the Crips, and the Bloods, and then there are the Cranbrooks:
And how far has Romney moved? This story is resonant because one can, all too easily, see Romney walking away even now, or simply failing to connect, to grasp hurt.
Do people really want a gang leader as President?

Here I Come - Fergie

I'm in a 'Fergie' mood tonight....

"Ruined" - Images Theatre Company

On Sunday afternoon, I headed to the Guild Theatre to see "Ruined", by Images Theatre Company. This is the show, as previously mentioned, in which Tyehimba Kokayi would be playing drums.

RUINED is a powerful, gripping, gut-wrenching play, set in a bar and brothel in a mining town in the rain forest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The sexy, shrewd, proprietor, Mama Nadi both profits and protects the women whose bodies have become battlegrounds for the rebel solidiers and government workers, alike. The women who live and work at Mama's Place, have been brutually raped, ravaged and ruined by the men of the Congo and are caught up in a devastating and spiraling tragedy, yet they continue to fight to hold onto hope and their sanity. The soldiers and Government workers continue to war, and mark their territory as perpetrators as they march in and out of the bar/brothel taking what they want, and leaving more pain and devastation in their aftermath.

For a musical theater sort of person like myself, the synopsis sounded fairly-grim, but I'm happy to report the show is not nearly as depressing as the synopsis sounds. The issues the show deals with are all quite serious, of course, but there is time for music and singing too, and lighthearted banter.

The music starts the show with a bang, with Osayande Kokayi's powerful entrance, followed quickly by Tyehimba's tumbling entrance, and vigorous dance. Richard Jackson is on-stage too, with Lacorey Cunningham assisting with the drumming, and Norman McDaniel on guitar.

Left: Natasha Greer (who plays the tragic Salima).

Left: Ediambolo Lokoto (who plays the pretty Sophie).

Sophie and Salima make a powerful team that begin to part ways, carried away to different fates.

Lisa Lacy as Mama Nadi is powerful and excellent, as is Rob Anthony Gray as Christian. I also liked Dell Grooms as the ominous Commander Osembenga.

(I didn't realize Jannette McCoy was Assistant Stage Manager. I should have said hello!)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Comparing RMS Titanic With Modern Cruise Ships

Left: Young enthusiast with a white cardboard model of the Titanic stands in the ticketing line, waiting to see DMTC's "Titanic - The Musical" (May 4, 2012).

Before completely departing from the subject of RMS Titanic, one question has been gnawing at me: How does the Titanic compare with modern cruise ships?

There is only one cruise ship I'm familiar with: The Princess Sapphire (which I cruised on in Nov-Dec, 2010). So, I'll compare the Titanic to the Princess Sapphire.

Here are a few statistics regarding both the Titanic and the Princess Sapphire.

Year Christened:
Tt: 1912
PS: 2004

Gross Tonnage (gross tons):
Tt: 46,328
PS: 116,000

Total Length:
Tt: 268.0 meters
PS: 290.0 meters

Maximum breadth:
Tt: 28.0 meters
PS: 41.5 meters

Height (above water surface: meters):
Tt: 18.4 meters
PS: 54.0 meters

Total number of passengers:
Tt: 3,547
PS: 3,078

The RMS Titanic required 825 tons of coal per day. That is an average of 19 pounds of coal a second (like a cement bag's worth of coal a second).

Left: Sapphire Princess, with parasailer.

So, the Princess Sapphire is roughly 2.5 times bigger than the Titanic. It's only slightly longer, but it's 50% wider, and 3 times taller than the Titanic. Nevertheless, despite its smaller size, the Titanic carried 17% more people than the Princess Sapphire is intended to carry.

On average, the modern cruiser gets roughly 2.5 times more space than the folks on the Titanic did.

Ah, luxury!

Woodland Chamber Singers - Spring 2012 Concert

Saturady evening, it was off to Sally perform with the Woodland Chamber Singers.

Left: Woodland Chamber singers director Lenore Turner-Heinson wishes Woodland High School Choir Director John Abigana Godspeed as he retires from his position.

Some aspects about the show troubled me, as it edged closer to politics. Lenore Turner-Heinson is understandably preoccupied. Her son is due to return from Afghanistan later this month. She urged the audience to support "all our sons and daughters" in harm's way, and led an ovation for veterans, who were encouraged to stand. All reasonable enough.

One of the songs was called 'Anthem of Peace'. Reader Brad Van Sant explained that it was an Estonian song that celebrated the successful, non-violent endurance of the Estonian people, as the Soviets tried over generations to break apart their nation and its culture, particularly its musical culture; first with violence, then through dilution, by the settlement of Russians there. Clearly the Soviets were the villains here.

Then, Van Sant introduced the song 'Anthem' from the musical "Chess" (as ably sung by Ryan Gordon, whom I at first didn't recognize, because I haven't seen him in such a long time). 'Anthem', of course, is an assertion of embattled national pride: basically defensive in nature. In the musical "Chess", it is sung from a defensive Russian perspective, but it works very well today as sung from a defensive American perspective: an embattled America burdened with the 'Long War' against terrorism. Van Sant went on to mention the Soviet effort to bring Afghanistan into the Communist orbit, and the critical role of the U.S. in sheltering Afghan musicians and their culture from the depredations of both the Soviets and the Taliban.

It seemed to me that Van Sant was explaining America's role in Afghanistan by equating the Estonian resistance to the fight against the Taliban, and our support for both efforts to save culture.

There is so much mischief here! The two fights are quite distinct, of course. The Estonian nation has been in existence for a thousand years, but the Afghan nation has yet to coalesce, riven as it is by tribal differences. The analogy fails.

But perhaps Van Sant's efforts are to be expected. Americans remain perennially puzzled and baffled by our precise role in Afghanistan. None of the official explanations seem to make much sense, particularly after the killing of Osama bin Laden. Obama, Boehner, McCain, Petraeus, Biden, Franks: they have all tried to explain what we are doing, but their stories remain unsatisfying.

Well, someone has to explain what we are doing in Afghanistan! Why not Brad Van Sant? Why not Ryan Gordon? Nature abhors a vacuum, and since official explanations define the precise meaning of a complete void, others have to give it a try. In fact, as troubling as these analogies are, they are the first time I've heard anyone try to tell a coherent tale about our Afghan involvement. There will be other such efforts.

Not quite what I expected when I went to hear the Woodland Chamber Singers.

The PhD Movie

Candy had a great idea. Let's get all the young, hip PhDs she knows at work together for a party, to screen "The PhD Movie". Candy was particularly fond of this movie, because it was filmed at CalTech, her alma mater, and features the Ballroom Dance Club, her favorite leisure activity at CalTech, as well as including several people she actually knows. (Since I was once the Vice President of the Ballroom Dance Club at UNM, I felt a second affinity to this movie.)

We got into trouble almost immediately because everyone's schedules were so non-congruent. And, truth be told, she doesn't know that many Ph.D.'s at work, because there aren't that many Ph.D.'s at work. So, she tried relaxing the specifications a little bit. Even young, hip people with Master's degrees, or with incomplete Ph.D. dissertations, were welcome. In the end, just a few of us showed up, and I had to leave early anyway. (I'm just flattered that I was young and hip enough to be included).

Nevertheless, a well-done movie that highlights the eternal plight of graduate students in the sciences!

Based upon the PhD Comics series by Jorge Cham.

"Thirteen" - Woodland Opera House

Left: Andy Hyun (left) talks to Jason Hammond. Stacy Arriaga (Cassie! - center) talks to Tony Cellucci (who played the lead, Evan, in '13'). Right, Mike Yambrovich.

On Friday evening, a gathering of DMTC folks ate at Ludy's Barbeque and headed to the Woodland Opera House to see "Thirteen".

Interesting show. Sitting towards the back of the hall on the main floor, I had problems hearing the show, which was unfortunate. A number of jokes were thus lost.

I liked the humble setup and the ordinary situations employed in the musical, but I didn't like the exposition of the show in the first act. So clunky! For example, Patrice (Abby Miles), who appears to be appealing young lady, and has a winning personality, is shunned by the popular kids. Why? No apparent reason, except that it is necessary for plot development. Those same inscrutable popular kids also instantly confer the nickname 'Brain' on the new kid in town, Evan (Tony Cellucci), even though he hasn't done or said anything remotely intelligent yet. Bang! Clunk!

Nevertheless, once that Noisy Steam Automobile known as a Musical finally gets rolling in Act 2, everything works fine.

Generally, in most musicals, I like Act 1 better than Act 2, because the new world portrayed by the show is still fresh and alive, and there are no awkward threads to deal with. "Titanic the Musical" is a good example. In Act 2, the boat sinks. Awkward! So, "Thirteen" is one of those special musicals, like "Sweeney Todd", where Act 2 is better than Act 1.

Devin DeGeyter has impeccable comic timing in his role as Archie, the kid encumbered by illness. Devin will go far! I also liked McKinley Carlisle's sass and Tomas Eredia's moves. Glad to see Quentin Carbajal and Chloe Deamer on stage again!

Jenny Plasse waves hello.

It was great fun seeing Stacy Arriaga again. She played "Cassie" in the Woodland Opera House's 1999 production of "A Chorus Line", and even though she is an active choreographer in the Vacaville-Fairfield-Vallejo-Martinez area, I hadn't seen her since then.

Stephen Hatcher's choreography was clever, energetic, and well-executed!

Born To Be Alive----Patrick Hernandez

Another favorite song from the height of Western Civilization (the late Seventies).

Sylvester - Cry Me A River

Got this on *repeat*!