Friday, September 28, 2012

Closure Of The Sacramento Campbell Soup Plant Will Be Very Painful

This plant is only three miles from my house. Closure of the plant will rip open a new hole in the economy of South Sacramento, and the reverberations will be felt for miles in all directions, as customers disappear from shops, crime increases, and dependency grows. And what happens to the adjacent power plants (SPAC & Carson Ice-Gen)? Will they close too?:

It's an economic oasis in one of Sacramento's most impoverished neighborhoods – and an enduring symbol of the region's Big Tomato roots.

No wonder the shutdown of Campbell Soup Co.'s 65-year-old factory in south Sacramento, announced early Thursday, quickly became a bombshell felt up and down Franklin Boulevard and as far away as the Governor's Office.

The closure, to be completed in stages between now and next July, will eliminate 700 solidly blue-collar jobs, some paying $20 an hour or more. It won't stop Sacramento's late-arriving economic recovery, experts said, but it will hurt the job market and take another piece out of the region's middle class.

"Good jobs for poor people," said Monsignor James Church, pastor at nearby St. Rose Catholic Church. "This is going to whack our area – we're poor enough as it is."

Plant worker Dave Martin said the company had been dropping hints for months that the factory was in trouble, with managers complaining in staff meetings about slumping soup sales and bloated production costs. Campbell's has been losing market share as consumers drift away from canned soup.

Managers told workers that the Sacramento plant, whose workforce is represented by the Teamsters, pays the highest wages of any Campbell's factory, according to Martin. He added that some of the plant's chicken-noodle soup production was moved to another facility a month ago.

"Finally, today, they made the announcement they were closing it down," said Jesse Shanker, who has worked at the plant 22 years. "They told us that soup sales are going really, really slow, and it has been sliding over the years. And right now, they can't afford to run this plant."

Andy Williams - Moon River

RIP, Andy Williams. We will miss you!

I remember learning this song from my fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Chavez.

Most of the music education I got in elementary school consisted of learning 50 or 100-year-old songs from records - "Swanee River", and the like.

In contrast, Mr. Chavez, who played guitar, had the radical philosophy of teaching songs that were actually popular at the time; songs you could easily hear on the radio - at most, five years old. It was from him I learned Peter, Paul, and Mary's "Puff, the Magic Dragon", their cover of "500 Miles", Bob Dylan's "Blowin' In The Wind", Andy Williams' "Moon River", plus a host of other songs. What a refreshing change!

Freedom Of Speech Only Gets You So Far

Too high-profile even for California:
On September 14, TPM reported that the U.S. Probation Office for the Central District of California was reviewing Nakoula’s case. In 2010, Nakoula had been sentenced to 21 months in federal prison on bank fraud charges, and ordered not to use computers, cell phones, or the Internet for five years unless he got an OK from a probation officer. The shortened clip of “Innocence of Muslims” that was uploaded to YouTube in July was uploaded by a user named Sam Bacile, an alias which has been linked to Nakoula by media reports.

Step One's Golden Anniversary

Step One Health and Fitness studio will celebrate it's 25th anniversary on Sunday, November 18th. And they're expanding! They have a brand-new room that will be open soon!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

"WallDruggie" Gets Her Fifteen Minutes!

She earned it! Now for mine!:
Albuquerque, New Mexico resident and Breaking Bad fan Nancy Bymers (WallDruggie on Flickr), has undertaken an incredible mission to source out the real life locations of scenes from the television series Breaking Bad. If you’re a fan of the show you will undoubtedly recognize all of the locations in the gallery below.

Beyoncé - Love On Top

Best pop-singer skills ever seen!

Ke$ha Had Sexy Time With A Ghost

It blew her hair back:
"It's about experiences with the supernatural... but in a sexy way," she told Seacrest. "I had a couple of experiences with the supernatural. I don't know his name! He was a ghost! I'm very open to it."

The singer added that her new album "Warrior" is based around the theme of the spiritual quest she embarked on to improve her music.

"The theme of this record is magic. I went on a spirit journey by myself. No security guard. No managers. I just went around the world and lived on a boat," she explained. "I was in Africa rehabilitating baby lions. I went diving with great white sharks, and just went on this crazy spirit quest. I got hypnotised, and I just really wanted this record to be really positive, really raw, really vulnerable and about the magic of life."

Woohoo! I'm Going To Be In A Tucson Museum!

I got a surprise phone call this morning from Linda Walker, head of Tucson Regional Ballet (TRB). It was a crisis! She lost my E-Mail address! Easily fixed!

Sacramento-native Linda also indicated she wants to come up to northern California next February, and spend a few days reading books while huddled in a cabin near the coast. This struck me as dubious. It can get cold along the coast that time of year! The important thing, though, is that it's not Tucson, and since arts people rarely get holidays, she should feel free to spend hers exactly how she pleases, and if the coast in February makes her happy, so be it.

But the most important thing is that TRB is creating a historical museum! The school began in 1983. I started there, I think, in 1984. Since I was there in the early days, I am a pioneer! I will be in the museum!

I remember those days well. We were alone on the ballet prairie. The French had only just invented the grand plié. We were attacked by Indians (true, the Saturday-morning kids' class had been snowflakes the previous December, but it was already spring). We saved the day by doing pirouettes à la seconde, grande, clearing a space just large enough to escape. We were lucky to survive!

I'm going to see if I can alter my schedule so I can visit Tucson next month. I'll miss the TRB celebration, but it will be fun to see what they plan to do.

I'd like to be a wax figure in the museum, or, even better, an animatronic robot in the foyer, whose eerie verisimilitude to real life gives people the willies (or Wilis, as the ballet people know them)! Or, even better, I'd like to be like that 50 foot tall robot a Dutch inventor planned for Michael Jackson back in 2007. The robot was supposed to wander the desert near Las Vegas and fire laser beams into the sky, and attract attention from visitors jetting in from all over the world. But instead of wandering the desert, I'd like to periodically lumber over from the ballet studio to the intersection of Wilmot and Speedway, fire laser beams in all directions, and bring traffic to a halt.

Barring that, what would make me happy is whatever would make the girls in the corps de ballet roll their eyes, shake their heads, and wonder about the stability of their elders.

Annette Paul (Madam) and Marc Valdez (Gambler) in a Gay-90's-themed Act I of "Round and Round", a recital presented by Tucson School of Ballet (Tucson Community Ballet; now Tucson Regional Ballet) at Rincon High School on May 19, 1985.

Annette Paul was my first ballet dance partner. I understand she lives in Alaska now.

I started taking ballet at the University of Arizona in 1982 after deciding that I couldn't wait any longer to start strengthening my feet (after injuring myself just stepping off a curb). George Zoritch, danseur noble with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and Hollywood instructor earlier in his career, was an inspiring teacher at the University of Arizona. There were no classes in summer, however, so I needed to reach out to find some. I started driving clear across town to the little storefront on Speedway Blvd. and started participating in community ballet with Tucson Community Ballet (TCB). TCB evolved into the large and impressive TRB, but these were the smaller, earlier days.

My appearance at the studio was greeted enthusiastically by Director Linda Walker - look, a dancing male! - but caused a bit of a crisis with the teenage girls who dominated the social scene. What were they going with this strange fellow? I didn't help matters with an accident just a week before the recital. I fumbled a step (what was it called? A Gorgonzola? Something like that.) and drove my right foot into the floor, cracking my small metatarsal and giving me a limp. But the show had to go on!

"Round and Round" was really my first time on-stage performing ballet. Some memories remain very vivid: even though I couldn't see the audience in the dark, I could hear the audience breathing. Like a predatory feline crouched in the darkness of an African night. Quite distracting!

And these performing habits, once established, are hard to forgo. Forget 12-step programs - no trips to Rehab for me!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Things I Never Noticed At Work Before

Someone placed scotch tape across the lowermost electrical outlet in the hallway. I think they did that in order to keep the electricity from leaking out.

Big Bird's Camp Counselor

In 1982, Giancarlo Esposito was Big Bird's Camp Counselor on Sesame Street. Those were the days before he took a much-more-mercenary attitude towards fowl at Los Pollos Hermanos.

Gangnam Style

Gabe writes:
This is for you, Marc.
I reply:
Smooth, subtle - almost too subtle - but yes, I agree, it's for me!
Gabe replies:
Yes, subtle. Like a fine, elegant wine: Gangnam Style.
I reply:
Like the aroma of a fine Cuban cigar. Like the essence of rosewater, or the dark richness of mahogany. Yes, Gangnam Style.
Gabe replies:
Now I know of what it reminds me:
Love, soft as an easy chair
Love, fresh as the morning air
One love that is shared by two
I have found with you
Like a rose under the April snow
I was always certain love would grow
Love, ageless and evergreen
Seldom seen by two
You and I will make each night the first Everyday a beginning

Spirits rise and their dance is unrehearsed They warm and excite us 'Cause we have the brightest love Two lights that shine as one Morning glory and The midnight sun

Time, we've learned to sail above
Time, won't change the meaning of one love

Ageless and ever evergreen...

Yes, soft, soft as an easy chair.
Good night!

Dancemusiclabel Interview

These are the folks I plan to see perform at the Freak Music Festival in Phoenix next month.

Rod Carrillo hits right on Dance music's true inspiration: "I have ADD really bad!" Dance fans are like birds, and attracted to bright, shiny objects. I'm like a bower bird, and want to weave Kelsey & Julissa into my nest.

And here is the 80's video that inspired Rod Carrillo's career.

Finding The Fugitive In Del Paso Heights

Tuesday afternoon phone call from Joe the Plumber:

Joe: Marc, I really hate to ask, but can you lend me some money?

Marc: Oh, so the money you've been making....

Joe: It's been going to the motel....

Marc: Sure, what's up?

Joe: My van broke down. I'm here at a house in Del Paso Heights where a guy is working on it (Not THAT house - I don't go to THAT house anymore - but another house.) It's some kind of heater control thing. The vehicle runs rough and has no power. A plastic tube broke and I have to buy a part and pay the mechanic.

Marc: OK, so where's the house?

Joe: (aside) Hey, what's the address here?

(Voice): I can't tell you.

Joe: What?

(Voice): I can't tell you the address here. I'm a fugitive. I don't want to be found.

(Muffled conversation about how Joe can't guarantee payment unless I can somehow find the house. The mechanic was compelled to comply by the logic of the situation.)

Joe: The address is x*&@#$$$.

After driving through the funky, sweaty weirdness of backwater Del Paso Heights I finally arrived at the house. The mechanic eyed me warily, as we sized each other up, each trying to decide who posed the greatest danger to the other. The fellow seemed inarticulate - he could barely describe the problem with the heater control thingy - but otherwise seemed nice enough. Joe and I headed off to the auto parts store, purchased the part, and returned. I headed home, and presume all is well.

And now, to turn Joe's prepaid attention to the broken sprinkler head on my front lawn.

Mitt Romney And Cold Fusion

I took dark amusement in Mitt Romney's recent brush with science regarding the University of Utah's sponsorship of research into Cold Fusion in the late Eighties:

I'm also astonished how, towards the end of this audio interview, he decries the idea of an entity using government guarantees for profit-making in the mortgage market, when he demands precisely the same thing early in the audio interview for research into nuclear power.

The flip-floppery makes one's head spin!

But I really wanted to talk about Cold Fusion.

I arrived at the University of Utah in July, 1989, about five months after the whole Cold Fusion balloon blew up in their face. I even met some of the University people involved in the mess: in particular, James Brophy, vice-president of research. I was struck at the rather odd attitude people in Utah had towards scientific research, in general. It amounted to a kind of faith in the industriousness of the Mormon people.

The Mormons ultimately derive from northern New York state and are direct heirs to the tradition of Yankee ingenuity. Compared to my hometown of Albuquerque, Salt Lake City is full of well-organized, small-scale industrial enterprises. It's a wonder to behold, actually!

But 20th-Century science was characterized by heavy involvement by two entities: 1.) government, and 2.) large-scale industry. Both are anathema to the Yankee tradition, which is shop-oriented. People in Utah found the idea of a cheap, small-scale, state-supported enterprise beating the Big Boys at their own game to be completely irresistible. So much so, that it made them open to swindlers like Pons and Fleischmann.

So, even at this late date, in the rarefied Mormon political realm that Mitt Romney inhabits, three layers removed from the actual scientists, the appeal of Cold Fusion still hasn't perished. Much like how, three layers removed from the actual soldiers, the idea of the Soviet Union and the Cold War hasn't died yet either.

The ox is a potent symbol in Mormon culture, and it lives on and on too, even though there are very few oxen in Utah today.

A Romney Administration will be to politics like the Lawrence Welk Show was to music: an animatronic simulcrum of real life.

Best Ad Of The Campaign, So Far

But we live in California, so (mercifully) how do we know for sure?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

George Strait - Amarillo By Morning

E.: MMMMMAAAAAARRRRCCCC! You should hear Chris sing this song! He sounds just like George Strait!

M.: "Albuquerque by morning, Albuquerque's where I'll be."

Dumping A Piano

The hillbilly way!


Friday evening, driving to Davis on the Yolo Causeway at sunset, I arrived just as the bats in the colonies living under the Causeway were departing for a hearty night eating insects. Ill-advised, as always when driving, I took a photo with my iPhone camera.

Cloud Globe

Pretty cool app. Works in Google Chrome.

Staten Island Chicken Little Flummoxed By Eighth Grader

Rep. Grimm earns his name:
An eighth grader has copped to vandalizing the campaign headquarters of Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), the Associated Press reports.

New York Police Department spokesperson Paul Browne told the AP on Tuesday that the teenager confessed to a guidance counselor that over the weekend he and a friend had broken a window at the Staten Island office. The teenager is expected to be charged as a juvenile with criminal mischief.

...Grimm, a former FBI agent, spoke with the Staten Island Advance on Sunday night and emphasized that the incident was being taken very seriously.

“You know, especially in light of what happened with Gabby Giffords, we’re not in the world today where we can shrug things off,” Grimm told the Staten Island Advance. “Violence is violence. Throwing large stones and concrete through the window is an act of violence, and we’ve got to take it seriously.”

He also released a statement, calling the incident “an assault on democracy and the political process.”

“This is a disgraceful act of cowardice that is beneath the people I represent,” Grimm said. “Here in Staten Island, we are a family community, which is why, despite our differences in opinions and political views, we have never seen an attack on a campaign escalate to this level. In 2010, campaigns across the nation were fueled with high levels of passion, yet even then we never saw anything as dirty or disgraceful as this. Even though this is not an official office, this heinous act represents an assault on democracy and the political process, more so than it does on me as person or a candidate. I do believe this is a politically motivated crime, and will continue to work closely with the NYPD in identifying and prosecuting those responsible.”

...“What is most troubling about this series of events is the shameless media spin and speculation fueled by unscrupulous sources,” he said. “This is no more than another blatant attempt by the liberal media to generate more bogus allegations against me and continue their ongoing smear campaign.”

"Cloud Atlas" Is Coming

This is all about Meteorology, right? It'd better be, or I'm gonna be peeved!

Homer Simpson Votes

Monday, September 24, 2012

2012 Elly Awards

I have a pretty-dark view of the SARTA and the Elly Awards, in general, these days, so it's a good thing I didn't go to Sunday evening's award ceremony. Nevertheless, I knew some DMTC folks were nominated, and thus were going.

Indeed, heading east back across the Yolo Causeway Sunday evening, after the Sunday-afternoon performance of "City of Angels", a vehicle next to mine on the freeway honked. I looked up to see (who I believe was) DMTC's Petra F. sitting in the passenger seat, looking cool in her shades, zooming Sac-wards with others for the festivities. It was going to be a party! And why not? I was pretty-sure DMTC would win something, no matter what.

First, congratulations to Steve Isaacson, John Ewing, and the highly-skilled cast of "Chicago", for Musical Direction and Overall Production Elly Awards. A well-deserved win!

Friends at other theaters won awards too. In particular, Darryl Strohl, Amy Jacques-Jones, Lillian Baxter, and the Lack family at Runaway Stage Productions.

Nevertheless, in my view, SARTA rarely awards Ellys just on merit. I'm still flabbergasted that DMTC's 2008 "A Secret Garden" did not win any 2009 Elly nominations, much less awards. Because that show deserved to win too!

No, Ellys are awarded as much because of politics as merit.

In 2009, SARTA was still catching up to the large expansion of community theater in the Sacramento area in the previous twenty years. SARTA's priority then was distributing awards to all the theaters new to SARTA (with a bias towards theaters using professional talent on the sly to enhance production values), and that meant no awards for DMTC, regardless of the value of DMTC's productions.

By 2012, the economic hurricane of the last four years had swept away a number of the new theaters, and even some of the old theaters too. Looking for shelter amid the wreckage, SARTA simply needs DMTC more today than in the past, which means that, after a decade of neglect, they were finally inclined to give DMTC something, given a good excuse.

Times had changed.

But since SARTA doesn't change much, that likely means someone else got the shaft this year instead. Sorry about that. It's just the ever-turning SARTA Wheel of Injustice making its merry rounds.

The Breaking Bad Show (In Mayberry) - 2012 Emmys

The Lack Of Campaign Discipline

I'm a bit baffled by the proliferation of these news stories about conservatives dumping all over Mitt Romney's campaign:
But Republicans remain nervous about the Romney campaign’s strategy, and are urging him to change course instead of being defensive about his approach.

“Again, the biggest concern is the attitude in Mitt Romney’s head right now,” former Republican congressman and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough said on “Meet the Press.” “When he says that they don’t need to turn the campaign around, when you have Stuart Stevens and others basically saying, “Full steam ahead,” that’s a serious problem.”
Just about any campaign is a pretty sorry beast, and you can criticize the beast all day long. One thing I admired about Ronald Reagan's campaigns was the way the senior staff went to extraordinary lengths to stop the carping and the sniping. The role of the party and the partisans is to unite behind the candidate, and, basically, shut up and do the candidate's bidding. Reagan and his staff understood the importance of remaining disciplined. You can open up and talk about the problems at the victory party afterwards!

The fact that the modern GOP is having so much trouble doing this one, should-be-easy-to-do, utterly-essential thing shows a lack of discipline. I can't blame Ann Romney for saying "Stop it. This is hard!"

The Romneys have done their part. It's now time for the GOP to do its part. And they can start by shutting up.