The Blue Raccoon

Friday, June 27, 2008

Summer's Here: The Cicadas Are Whirring

Thid image has nothing to do with the post. But, it was these three guitar maidens, or a far less
charming cicada. This came from smashintransistors, and shows a
"girl group power pop band" called the Baby Shakes. Pictured, in what order is not known, Mary, Judy, Claudia, and not pictured, their detached male member, Dave
Rahm Murat.

There's a couple of sounds indicative of the South and a place and time. First, is the zipping exhalation of a screen door's spring, and the subsequent percussive slap when the door shuts. One of the great opening lines of any popular song enshrines the nature of that sound of summer--and by a composer with a song that cannot be confused with anything Southern, Bruce Springsteen's Thunder Road. He certainly must have known about screen doors slamming and porches, because a welter of memories and associations are packed into these few lines:

The screen door slams
Mary's dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch
As the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely"

The other aural season indicator that is more prevalent these days than screen doors slamming is the whirr of cicadas. They are returned to Colonial Avenue, these chanting monks of summer, seeking not enlightenment but the propagation of their species. Their biological imperative commands them and their music is far more lulling than the hoots and rap music of sideways-baseball cap frat boy chippy chasers.

The buzzing in the trees is commensurate with people out and on their front porches, crowding balconies, parties that spill into the sidewalk; or in the early evenings, a glasses of chilled wine, or strumming the guitar, or just sitting and reading. O
n my way home from work I pass by a couple w ho brings dinner out onto their small front porch. They have a bottle of wine and little candles. Or they are playing cards and I hear their triumphant slap on my way by; the couple recognize me and wave.

These are summer sounds in this part of Richmond. I welcome them--but not the heat-- and an occasional brief thundershower to cut the humidity.

I suspect, perhaps hope, that one of the collateral social tremors that may occur as electric bills rise and people seek relief from the closeness of their living rooms, that they may be using their porches more. If they have them. I'm quite thankful the neighborhoods near mine are of the vintage when porches were regarded not as an affectation, but a real part of enduring the warmer seasons and community connection.

I've hear porches described as "the missing room." They are the nerve centers of a community, or should be, if it's any kind of community. Here's a memoriam for the porch.

We even had sleeping porches on the second floor where, before they got turned into media dens by later inhabitants, were where a family retreated at night. All the windows were opened and whatever meager breeze could be felt was helped along by a ceiling fan. And, while we're at it, let us pause to praise ceiling fans.

Air conditioners have made the South livable for those who can't take the heat. Hell, even I have difficulty with blast furnace weather. But we practice restraint here on Colonial Avenue in regards to artificial cooling; cost is one factor, drying out the air is another, and a wafting breeze is just so much more relieving (provided the air isn't clammy) than a constant blowing of cold air.

Where I work I'm right under a vent. This is an older retrofitted brick structure, which I love and am able to get to by walking, but: the cooling system is difficult to adjust -- one side of the office freezes, the other side bakes. Frankly, if we practiced what used to be the case in Spain and other countries, during the heat of the day, you go home. Get a long lunch, have some afternoon delight, whatever . So much more civilized and less stressful, you ask me.

Greta Got Nuptialized

Speaking of heat, members of the billion-eyed audience are aware of my unabashed admiration of Greta Wodele who hosts the morning Washington Journal on C-SPAN. I know I'm not the lone wonkish nerd guy out there who holds this view, judging from my Sitemeter, of people who've come to this post. And even Esquire Magazine's Scott Raab could see the reason for my assessment. And other people could understand why Esquire made the decision, as seen here on FishBowl D.C.

Well, she went and got herself in the marital way--back in May, actually, and she's now Brawner. A few weeks ago a caller asked her outright, "Did you get married?" and she responded with one of her smiles, "Yes, yes, I did" as though you couldn't notice the sizable glittering adornment on her heart finger. At any rate, the best of all happiness is wished to her and Mr. Brawner.

That's going to take some getting used to. Look at her. She's like our Mona Lisa of public policy. Except, of course, Greta does research, write and conduct herself as a journalist. She doesn't need graphics and theme music. She already has them.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Large Hadron Collider
The majesty of quarks, the glory of Higg's Boson

"Is that a super conducting super collider, or are you just glad to see me?"
Here, from 2004, is Maria Spiropulu at Collider Point 5/CMS within CERN's Large Hadron Collider, and this part of it is somewhere under France. She wrote in postcard fashion then, "I just moved recently from the now highest energy machine in the world — the Tevatron at Fermilab — and there is a change in the scale of things. If what I knew I called grand this is brobdingnagian."

And you just got to love a girl who a) Handles heavy machinery capable of smashing atoms together at a high velocity to blast the fat off matter to reveal the lattice underneath, b) can use brobdingnagian correctly in a sentence, c) once played drums in a band called Drug Sniffing Dogs and d) can kickbox.

Spiropulu is one of the immense brains behind the experiments that are gonna tear. your. playhouse. down. And that's gooood thing. Oh, yessss.

Billion-eyed audience, I say politics, schmolitiks, the fix is in, the game is rigged, we're all screwed, including the obstreperous fixers and devious riggers. Politics, important as they are at a local level, are otherwise transient structures. What matters in the long haul is art and science.

And with the Hadron Super Collider, we get the whole enchillada; brains, beauty and an effort to bring the origin of the universe into view. What it'll all mean is anybody's guess.

But the superstitious and the conspiracy-minded somehow think this is going to end in a titanic maelstrom of destruction. These people stay up way too late watching movies on cable. They are kind of like believers in Rapture; the Second Coming as made by Michael Bay or Steven Spielberg.

What it is is, is one of the most remarkable achievements of humanity on Earth to date.

Quoting from the May 15, 2007 New York Times:

"Starting sometime next summer if all goes to plan, subatomic particles will begin shooting around a 17-mile underground ring stretching from the European Center for Nuclear Research, or Cern, near Geneva, into France and back again — luckily without having to submit to customs inspections.

Crashing together in the bowels of Atlas and similar contraptions spaced around the ring, the particles will produce tiny fireballs of primordial energy, recreating conditions that last prevailed when the universe was less than a trillionth of a second old.

Whatever forms of matter and whatever laws and forces held sway Back Then — relics not seen in this part of space since the universe cooled 14 billion years ago — will spring fleetingly to life, over and over again in all their possible variations, as if the universe were enacting its own version of the “Groundhog Day” movie. If all goes well, they will leave their footprints in mountains of hardware and computer memory."

A question the Times article does not answer is whether the CERN commissary is called the Hadron Supper Collider. No mention of that.

For about the next month they are cooling the collider down to minus 271 degrees in preparation for switching on the power to make those atoms spin around and slam dance their way to discovery.

One shouldn't get one's hopes up, though. The results of this experiment, 13 years in the making, won't be known for quite some time. I think it's a bit like looking for extraterrestrial life. Whatever's going to happen will take a while. With energies this high, and subatomic particles being...well, subatomic, creating these fundamental conditions won't be easy. And whatever is found will bring with it some surprises, to be sure.

A reasoned assessment of the LHC is worth repeating here, via poster at The Register.
The sky is falling!
By Flocke Kroes
Posted Tuesday 24th June 2008 13:02 GMT

If financial experts say "there has never been a significant collapse in the financial sector and we don't expect one now" then it is because the expect to make a profit from saying that.

Nuclear PR flacks might have said "there has never been a significant loss of life nuclear incident worth worrying about," but they if they did, they would clearly have been lying (Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Chernobyl).

Reports of leaks at Windscale used to be a regular event, but after they changed the name to Sellafield, the reports slowed down and stopped. The fire in the core of Windscale Pile Number 1 was caused by design flaws. Nuclear engineers will not make those mistakes again.

The Three Mile Island incident released more radiation into the environment, but no deaths were attributed to it. Sickness was attributed to stress caused by reports on the accident (The reports were more frightening than the ones for Windscale.)

Chernobyl caused about 35 times more fallout than Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It caused about 50 direct deaths and around 9000 deaths from cancer. These numbers are very political. You could get different numbers from other sources.

Chernobyl and Three Mile Island incidents both involved running reactors that were not ready for operation. Perhaps we should delay building nuclear power plants until electricity is rationed, then build a dozen plants in a rush.

The Earth has not been eaten by vacuum bubbles, black holes or strangelets yet, even though it has been around for a few billion years. The Earth is made out of material ejected form super nova explosions. These explosions are far more powerful than LHC. If you are trying to say LHC is not safe, you first have to explain why LHC could cause a problem that supernovas have not.

If LHC could make vacuum bubbles with different rules of physics that grow without limit, then supernovas would have done this and we would not exist.
If miniature black holes did not evaporate promptly, then the Earth would be a black hole, not a planet.

If strangelets could convert normal matter into strange matter, the Earth would be made of strange matter caused by strangelets from supernovas.

If a theory is not consistent with the results of previous experiments, then the theory is wrong.

If the LHC is spending tax dollars on saying "LHC is safe" it is because they have to counter the silly law suit started by the modern day Chicken Lickens Walter L Wagner and Luis Sancho. I hope these two will meet the modern equivalent of Foxy Loxy and have to pay some extra taxes to make up for the waste they have caused."
You can find out more about the Large Hadron Collider at its very own home site, here. A National Geographic piece with the provocative and reductive headline (which headlines are supposed to be, to get you to read) "The God Particle," referring to the theorized Higg's Boson, is here.

Theoretical physicist Peter Higgs, is an atheist, by the way, and his original name for his speculative particle when he conjectured the thing during a 1964 walk in the Scottish mountains was the "Goddamn Particle" because of its being so difficult to imagine, much less find.

Image credits: Top, via, second, with guy in over alls -- I grabbed this so long ago, don't know; Maria in billed cap, via the New York Times, photographer Lloyd DeGrane; emerging from the transporter chamber? -- don't know; peering into the distnat past -- and you,

Soon to be a major motion picture:

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Carlin's Dead: And I don't feel too good myself
Tonight's Forecast -- Dark!

Did I actually see the Hippy Dippy Weatherman sketch on the Ed Sullivan Show or am I conflating this with a retrospective that I may have seen years ago?

I'm 46 -- but my parents watched these shows with me on an old three channel (four, with UHF) Zenith console black and white with an adjustable anttenae attached to the back. And boy, I had fun with those, raising, lowering and pointing them in various directions, while trying to watch Channel 10 out of Norfolk when the atmospheric conditions were right -- it was like getting signals from space.

This television functioned from about 1962 until I went to college and the picture tube blew, around 1985, once and for good. My pop cultural references therefore include seeing actual live prime time telecasts of Sullivan, Jackie Gleason with those magnificent Miami show girls, and Red Skelton doing the punning seagulls Gertrude and Heathcliff. I watched Orson Welles do card tricks, then exchange barbs with Truman Capote on The Mike Douglas Show. Or was it Merrrv Griffin? We had local kiddies shows that showed cartoons--in Richmond it was Sailor Bob (Bob Griggs) -- on Channel 12 -- and I think Channel 6-- Danny (Don) Beagle and Sooper Dog -- Sooper wore sunglasses and cracked wise, and was the hand and arm of the William "Bill" Oscar Adams, who died in 2004.

I viewed Lost In Space when it aired not as an antique repeat (the Robot scared me!) though soon got caught up by Star Trek with Vina, the Orion dancing slave (seen here via Darkhaus Trek), Yeoman Janice Rand (The adoralicious Grace Lee Whitney--making me ga ga for go go boots, if worn as shown below, via Post Modern Sass), The Doomsday Machine where I learned incidental music that will be with me forever -- kind of liked that requiem tune for the damaged Constitution; The City On The Edge of Forever (Fresh young Joan Collins! Alternate time lines!) tribbles, and nifty technology (which I later viewed in its styrofoam and woodshop glory at a Smithsonian exhibit and got to sit in the Captain's chair) -- but I think in early reruns.

I watched Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In and its country cousin, Hee Haw.

My mom thought Laugh-In was "nasty" and walked out of the room with a disapproving sniff. She approved of Hee Haw, Dad and I admired the wondrous cantilverage and the jouncing joyfulness of womanhood of Barbi Benton or Gunilla Hutton. Whew. But, I also liked to see Junior Samples mess up, and how the losing nature of his auto sales ("Call BR-549") was exemplified by an Edsel on blocks. We had more than a dozen of those ill-fated cars surrounding our house, like a Roger Corman film, "Attack of the Killer Edsels."

But I experienced George Carlin's stylings live just once, at an auditorium near Norfolk, Va., sometime around 1988. I was living in Williamsburg and I went with a girl I was dating. She scored the tickets. He seemed tired and exasperated then, more cranky than funny, and I wondered how he'd be able to keep up this act (!) Little did I know the impact Carlin had had, his influences on the culture, and his stand up giving birth to the fake news show satires that are now seen as the barometers of culture.

If as some traditions hold, we do choose our moment of entering this world, and when we exit, maybe Carlin just decided that he couldn't deal with this veil of tears anymore. It just isn't funny anymore.

But, I had to think of him in connection to the recent urging by veteran climatologist James Hansen who in recent days commemorated his first presentation 20 years ago to Congress about climate change by urging that the oil barons be tried for crimes against humanity if they don't mend their ways. They know what's happening, he says, and they aren't doing damn much about it.
From Joe Fay at The Register:

"When you are in that kind of position, as the CEO of one the primary players who have been putting out misinformation even via organisations that affect what gets into school textbooks, then I think that's a crime," he told [The Guardian newspaper].

He said such execs, should be put on trial for high crimes against humanity, and pointed the finger at their lobbyists and paid pols into the bargain, saying that their actions had undermined democracy.

Hansen’s scientific approach twenty years ago has resulted in virtually no change to the fossil fuel industry’s hegemony in Washington. Congress is as wedded to fossil fuel cash as Americans are to their cars. In the meantime, an embattled Bill Clinton was sandwiched between two Bushes who were both inextricably tied into the oil industry.

Will Hansen's more uncompromising stance finally make congress sit up and take notice? Unlikely. Will $200 a barrel oil make a difference? Perhaps. But it’s debatable."

Just as cigarette manufacturers have been sued and the spotlight shone on the mortal dangers of their product, so should the climate change deniers and oil company executives who really don't have any idea about what to do next-- that will also turn as hefty a profit. Their rationalization is the same as the drug dealer, the pornographer and the arms dealer: I'm just supplying what people want. How they use it is their business. Carlin would chastise us for thinking that a) Capitalism has a moral center, b) That mega corporations that thrive on our weaknesses and desires for convenience, cannot run our well-being through their calculus. They could not survive if they did so. Their best interests are not ours. Simple.

Carlin would riff not on the evil of the oil men, but the gullibility and chowderheaddedness of a public that thinks that a nation of 300 million people can own three cars for every man, woman and child, and not experience difficulties. The culture is drunk with its vehement lust for oil, and the habit is sickening everyone, and everything, even the weather. And now, millions of Chinese are ditching their bikes for stupid cars.

Last night I was helping Amie clean up along the sidewalk and parking area of her studio along Hull Street in South Richmond. And I was amazed by the archaeological quality of trash, the sheer layering of plastic bags large and small -- produced via fuel derivatives. And this is one block of one moderate-sized town, not the garbage heaps outside Cairo. Your mind reels at the tons and tons of this stuff covering the world. If a plastic bag is left in the sun for a year, the sun and elements can break it down. Buried in the ground, just about never.

When I don't get a bag at the convenience store the clerk looks at me funny. If I don't have a reusable bag, I just carry stuff. Usually it isn't very far. But that's just me and my dirty hippie ways.

A posting from Kunstler's blog:

"As I've noted, approximately 45% of the electorate voted for Bush twice. In conjunction with the other voters, this means that nearly 35% of America's population are "off their nut" in regard to "fair play," justice and compassion.

As long as the well off refuse to accept reality - the polarization of America's population will grow.

I've often thought- the US will end up looking like Mexico, India and in many ways China.

But now I figure - we ARE America - we will invent new -ever more efficient ways to deal with the poor. The system will continue to refine methods to avoid confronting resource shortages.

"I've got mine - you go get what's left."

Strange days in store - indeed."

You know, I can't spend time diving meanings in the kerfluffel-der-jour of the current shabby pathetic presidential campaign where little truth is being told, but full trowels of rhetoric are getting slapped around to further build walls around what matters. (And eventually rendering the candidates invisible to the eye as they build a structure of half-truths and compromises around themselves. Former McCain supporters are already experiencing his disappearance and Obama's wall is going up, layer by layer).

The latest dustup, or as of five minutes ago, was this silly thing by Obama's people; mocking up his campaign logo to look like the Presidential seal for some kind of photo-op sit down. Of course, Barack is up against Republicans. And as a friend pointed out to me, Democrats voted for Kerry but didn't like him much. People liked Gore--then not as much as now--but he just didn't respond to attacks very well. But Barack's foregoing of public campaign financing, and this seal business, points to a guy who is in it to make John McCain look like an irrelevant doofus. Now that's raw politics.

Still, anybody who wants to be President of the United States of Murrica possesses a fundamental lapse in their psyche. Columnist Anne Appelbaum speaks for me here in her Washington Post column:

"From whatever political quarter it comes, and regardless of whatever merit it may have, all of this commentary starts with the same assumption: The reader is meant to be shocked, shocked, that these two men -- men who have submitted themselves to months of brutal campaigning, men who have thrown their wives and families to the wolves, men who know they might at any second need to abandon their closest friends -- these two men are not, in fact, very nice people at all.

But why on Earth should anyone expect them to be? In its wisdom, the American nation has devised a presidential election system that actively selects for egotistical megalomaniacs: You simply cannot enter the White House if you aren't one. You might start out as an idealist, of course, and I would even give Obama and McCain the benefit of the doubt here. I'm sure both are patriots, both care about America, both want to make the world a better place.

But in order to become the candidate, each also had to make a series of utterly ruthless decisions, decisions that most nice guys would find unpalatable. I don't care what a helpful father Michelle says he is, there is absolutely no sense in which Obama's presidential campaign -- or, should it come to that, Obama's presidency -- is good for Obama's children. Neither is there a scenario under which Cindy McCain, who always looks profoundly uncomfortable in the limelight, is ever going to relax and enjoy her husband's golden retirement years. Anyone who was ever closely associated with either candidate is now at risk of unpleasant media exposure. No one who works for either of these men right now has job security, and no one who knows them can expect any favors."

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

The SEAL Team Conquers Carytown
...but politely.

I had a true Richmond experience yesterday morning around 6 a.m while hiking up to the 7-11 for creamer. The SEAL Team fitness group was out in force, jogging back and forth along Cary Street, about 40 of them. I encountered them running up Belmont as they moved fast and excited, as though they'd just jumped out of an airplane.

I appreciate the idea of the SEAL regimen, the concept of a 10-year Marine veteran who puts people through the kind of physical training he underwent, at the crack of dawn (which is the time most non-Marine professionals have for themselves). So I'm watching them huff and sweat and call out instructions to each other, and admiring the sweaty effort in a lumpy, pasty, middle-aged, back-injured, walk-to-work, Pilates two-days-a-week-if-I'm-lucky kind of way.

Well, as I'm heading up the street watching them go up comes, "Bring it in!" that is called down the line in unit command manner. So they start now running toward me. I have to give way on the sidewalk, which is fine, I can watch pony-tails swish and calf-muscles flex with the best of them. As they thunder by, almost each one of them said, "Good morning!" -- and the voices are higher, lower, male, female, and it was just great. Some even smiled, and one woman said, "We're quite a spectacle at this hour of the morning, aren't we?" Yeah, but in a good way.

The Girl With The Head Scarf Stays In The Picture

The Obama campaign got snagged on the effort of volunteers--well-meaning but wrong-headed--who tried to finesse their candidate's image by preventing two young supporters wearing head scarves from appearing behind the dais as Al Gore gave his belated and dull endorsement. As reported by Politico....

The mind goes back, to those faraway days this past spring when the notion of an Obama candidacy seemed, at best, a rather brain-fevered and heart-on-sleeve Quixotic exercise. (As opposed to the present brain-fevered, heart-on-sleeve Quixotic possibility).

His handlers were so nervous about the trajectory of Obama's image that when appearing at a fund raiser here at Richmond, Vee-ay's Plant Zero, two paintings of a current exhibition by Jamie D. Bolling got, well, censored. These were the unseen pictures shown around the world:

From the May 15, 2007 Sydney Morning-Herald:

"The images you see here are paintings that could not be shown last week when the US presidential candidate Barack Obama gave a speech in the Plant Zero Gallery in Richmond, Virginia. Obama's staff apparently were concerned that the paintings, both by Jamie Boling, would embarrass the senator.

They removed a painting titled Honest Abe, showing a T-shirt with the words "Kill Lincoln". It was allegedly homage to the 1980s movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High (wherein Lincoln referred to a competing high school, not a 19th century president).

They put a sheet over a painting titled Snake Charmer, on sale for $US5000 ($6000), which depicts Paris Hilton in a car next to somebody who might be Britney Spears (we say "might be" because the headless image seems to refer to an occasion when Spears emerged from a car without underwear).

Boling told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that the Hilton painting "depicts this culture's preoccupation with celebrity." He said he held no grudge: "I understand that a politician would want to avoid being photographed in front of Britney Spears's crotch.

"I think it's really ironic that we're a culture that kind of prides ourselves on freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and then we're quick to jump on people who exercise that right or are fearful of the unknown. And the unknown in this case was: 'What if Barack Obama's picture is taken in front of one of these paintings? How can that be spun by the other side?"'

At the time, I wrote a lengthy blog about the whole silly thing-- on another network, as they say--but suffice to say both of these panics in a kiddie pool underscore the vapid zero-sum nature of politics and some people. One out of 10 of those answering a poll thought that Barack Obama is a Muslim. These, I guess, are the 26 percent who still love Bush and want McCain to fulfill what they think should be W's third term, the same 26 percent who think Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein were lovers, and that Barack Hussein Obama is their love child -- as inconceivable as that may be. 

The subtle irony that underscored the Richmond situation is that Bolling deals with celebrity, media and perception. The "Kill Lincoln" T-shirt wrapped around a merry bosom is a tight close-up of an otherwise innocuous image from a goofy teen movie and involved a pep rally for a football team. There is further political/history subtext, too, which, considering the "a" word that gets whispered has another level of meaning that Bolling demonstrated in his prescient artistic way. Smoking Gun had more and bigger here.

I don't know Obama's taste in art. But after the head scarf flap, his campaign released a torrent of images with him standing near or next to women with head scarves.

And, oh, by the way, Michelle Obama appeared on The View yesterday. At 5'11" and with those amazing arms, she looked like she'd just arrived from the Justice League of America, and could, at any moment, grab up the panel and launch herself out of the studio. That's what I'm talkin' about.

[Image: Steve Fenn/ABC, via Associated Press, via the New York Times]

And speaking of the Justice League of America, Obama conducted a photo op trotting out his foreign policy and national security team. This is a deep bench although the carpers--with some justification-- call it "Change you can go back to," and wonder where a Mesopotamian guru might be (channeling T.E. Lawrence, perhaps? If he'd been listened to, we might not have gotten locked into this noun-verb-and-9/11 mentality.) I admit seeing them all gathered around the squared "U' table thrilled my little Eeyore heart-- though the tableaux resembled a Disneyworld's Hall of Presidents...Madeline Albright, General Wesley Clark (Can you say Arkansas and the South, can you say Man Factor/Security Mom? Can you say...Vice President General Wesley Clark? -- That is, if Sen. Jim Webb passes/doesn't pass muster, then Clark can go to State or Defense.) and..woah!..Warren Christopher, who, apparently, is still being seen in public even after HBO's Recount makes him look rather, um, lame.

I miss Samantha Power, though. Brainiac red head. All I'm sayin'.

The Cyd (1922-2008)
"Beautiful Dynamite"

I can't say anything better than Fred Astaire's description in this post's title.

Cyd Charisse, (Tula Ellice Finklea), dancer. From Amarillo,
Texas. Of course. That's how they make'm down there.
Image via

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Iowa: Their disaster is a harbinger
"Is this anyway to run a country?"

Davenport, Iowa. Image via

I've watched with astonishment about the ongoing catastrophe in slow-motion that is the midwest flooding and the awful circumstances afflicting Iowa. There's something going on here, and we don't know what it is, but, there are clues.

I went on to the Daily Kos today -- I don't often, because all that yammering makes me tired, and for some reason it always turns into a spinning-into-butter argumentation between parties who just don't seem to know any better.

But here, this -- this a very good analysis of what the deluge mean--floods with levels not seen in 500 years. What's next? The New Madrid fault going active again?

I've taken the liberty to place the entire posting by SlyDi here:

How A Midwest Flood Can Drag Down A Nation
by SlyDi

Sun Jun 15, 2008 at 07:59:15 PM PDT

As the workweek begins tomorrow, every interstate highway and railroad across Iowa is closed by flooding. Wisconsin isn't faring much better, with I-94 across the state flooded out along with one of the three remaining cross state railroads. Truckers are having to take long, roundabout routes burning up $5 a gallon diesel fuel to make hopelessly late deliveries.

The busiest railroad in America, Union Pacific's transcontinental main line across Iowa, is shut down by high water, with trains backed up as far as Nevada. UP is even "embargoing" destinations affected by the flooding- essentially telling shippers not to send freight that way because it'll merely clog up their system. Despite the wider and deeper rivers, things aren't moving much on the water either- barge tows are tied up on 200 miles of the busiest stretch of the upper Mississippi from Muscatine to St.Louis as fast moving flood waters make safe navigation impossible.

Let's go back to the 70s... The midwest was still served by a thick web of railroads, and if the mainline was flooded out there were plenty of branch lines to detour on. The interstate system was pretty much complete, but was still used at less than capacity so you could actually drive the speed limit.

Back then I drove truck for Continental Baking, a typical big company of the era. We had bakeries every couple hundred miles, with 70 of them spread around the country. In Iowa alone we had bakeries in Davenport, Sioux City, and Waterloo, and 3 in Chicago, Kansas City, Omaha, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Rochester, and St.Louis in surrounding states. Look at a map of Iowa, and you'll find we had a bakery within 3 hours drive by truck from anywhere in Iowa. Every bakery was quite self sufficent- our engineers could make parts for our machinery if they had too, and their parts stock would put a decent hardware store's to shame. We jammed the basement of the bakery with ingredients, had a huge bulk flour tank to boot, a couple more boxcars of flour sitting in the siding a mile away, and truckloads more perishable ingredients at the locker plant a few blocks away. If we somehow managed to run out of all that, the Pillsbury "A" mill was but a mile away along with many other suppliers.

Most of our bakeries baked just a single 8 hour day, and our drivers worked an 8 hour shift. In the rare occasion when the bakery was down for more than an hour of so, other bakeries ran a little overtime and baked for them. Being scheduled for an 8 hour day when we legally could work 15 hours, we drivers had ample time to make an extra trip to another bakery or make a long detour due to closed roads. That was standard operating procedure back then in american business- an auto plant didn't shut down because a trailer load of parts was on it's side in a ditch 500 miles away.

Back to this century and the brave new world of "just in time" logistics, "lean manufacturing", and the ever popular "eliminating excess capacity". Continental Baking has merged with Interstate Bakeries, but the only bakery they have left in Iowa is in Waterloo- it's shut down by the flooding and who knows when it'll be back up. Only 4 of those 9 bakeries in surrounding states are still baking. The old engineers who maybe spent too much time munching donuts and guzzling coffee but were right there when something broke have pretty much retired but not been replaced.

Most of that web of rails is gone too. What's left is overloaded "main lines" that are often just single track, the second track having been pulled up and sold for scrap. "Branch Lines" that used to parallel the main lines and serve as detours now run a few miles and dead end, if they haven't been torn out entirely. Dozens of rail yards have been torn out and the land sold at huge profits for development- As a result backed up trains plug the main lines because there aren't enough yards to park them in. Despite most railroads now being quite profitable, profits that should have been reinvested in upgrading century old routes through river valleys have instead gone into dividends to satisfy short sighted investors.

We ain't gettin' anywhere on the highways either- money that could have been spent to raise highways above the 500 year flood plain has instead been wasted on extremely expensive added lanes so exuban commuters can escape the city a minute or two faster. Fortunately Iowa invested in making US 61 and US 20 into 4 lane expressways that are now doing yeoman duty as detour routes- In neighboring Minnesota republicans still haven't finished 4 laning US 14 after decades of planning. And on the river our WPA era system of locks cries for an upgrade.

So it's soon to be Monday morning... and plants will shut down because a trailer or train car can't get through the midwest floods to keep a factory or bakery or packing plant supplied with vital parts or ingredients that management is too dumb to stockpile. At the other ends of the continent railroaders and truckers will be out of work because our nation hasn't invested in critical infrastructure.

Is this any way to run a country?

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Bees In The Mimosa Tree
Amie's back and I'm in 1909--except for the Financial Times

Image cadged via eBay...people'll buy anything.

This afternoon while slogging away with Ellen Glasgow and Adon Yoder in 1909, I watched from my office window as fuzzy yellow bees danced around the hairy pink blossoms of the mimosa tree in the back yard. Sometimes, I'll see a humming bird. Various winged friends flocked here today, pecking at the sweet goodness provided by the mimosa.

My Partner In Art For Life, Amie, has returned from abroad after a month-long artist residency in Germany. She brought back with her several heavy bags, laden with Kneitinger beer and books about the naughty Balthus and numerous other artists.

The Kneitlinger beer logo features a goat lapping at the vat (as above). Me being a Capricorn, and one that enjoys beer, this has a special meaning.

She also brought with her this weekend's Financial Times. Here I found a piece by novelist Irvine Walsh , "Talkin' 'bout our generation," that profiled a group of Miami residents arranged in a tableaux portrait Larry Salter. The subject matter is the chances of Barack Obama. One of those interviewed is John Hood, Miami's "bon vivant native son" who promotes clubs and writes there. He's wearing a suit and hat that I wish I had. He's quoted by Walsh, "Youth and inspiration are the key components of Obamamania. Of course, his youth is relative and his inspiration increasingly steeped in platitude, but America is youth-obsessed and has gone too long without anyone inspiring.”

Walsh writes in part:
"As Frank Rich wrote in The New York Times: “When Mr McCain jokingly invoked the Obama slogan ‘I am fired up and ready to go’, it was as cringe-inducing as the white covers of R&B songs in the 1950s. Trapped in an archaic black-and-white newsreel, the [Republican party] looks more like a nostalgic relic than a national political party in contemporary America; a cultural sea change has passed it by.” The vessel needs a paddle to navigate this creek, and race may just about be the only one to hand.

Setting out to undermine Obama’s status as the black man the suburban whites can trust (painting him as O.J. Simpson rather than Tiger Woods) is a fraught strategy. If it hits the wrong note, it might well result in electoral meltdown for the Republicans. If the gambit succeeds, it spells big trouble for American society. Many of the new Americans no longer see their nation as a promised land. Michelle Sanchez yearns to live in Singapore, Matthew Yeasted feels his future may lie in Canada. Barack Obama would seem to offer the country its best chance to modernise. If this opportunity isn’t grasped, given the enthusiasm he’s brought back to politics, disillusionment is on the horizon.

“A lot of white people will never vote for a black man, and they tend to be older voters,” says Christie Samoville. “Rage” sounds disturbingly like a hybrid of race and age, and there may be plenty of it to go around in the US before the fate of Barack Obama is known at the 2008 polls. As she deliberates whether a mineral water or a Bloody Mary might be the best choice, Samoville wonders: “Can the new generation beat the old one?” Read the rest, here.

This lovely mimosa tree, whose bountiful presence I enjoy, as do our wingéd friends, is, however, a problem. The roots are buckling the sidewalk and are surely digging under the foundation of our garage. The tree wasn't intended to grew there; it just has during the past several years, for certain prior to our arrival here. Life wants nothing but itself.

In this same issue of the Financial Times, columnist Tyler Brulé aggregates the world's most livable cities. Two North American metropolises make his list; Vancouver and Montreal. Note that they are way north of the Lower 48.

"What is still something of a shock is how many cities still get it so very, very wrong. London doesn’t make the grade for the simple reason that it has somehow managed to grant planning permission to a most uninspired shopping centre in Shepherd’s Bush, an area that is rapidly becoming a part of central London.

Toronto doesn’t qualify because it has allowed its suburbs to become unconnected, ugly sprawls of hideous houses (garages bolted on to the front of houses are far better suited to southern California than to southern Ontario) and has done little of merit to deal with its derelict railway lands. New York continues to grind to a halt under the weight of automobile traffic, has no coherent scheme to get more people on to bicycles and still no sign of a high-speed, non-stop rail link to any of its airports.

What urban dwellers tell me they want is pretty standard: a mix of shops and services within walking distance, a good transport interchange within close proximity, green space as part of their residence, a good park with a body of water for a refreshing plunge nearby, independent businesses as a key feature of the community, a sense of security (police on the beat or a Japanese-style police box in their neighbourhood), excellent coffee (Melbourne’s Fitzroy and St Kilda and Sydney’s Potts Point frequently came up as neighbourhoods that had the ideal mix of restaurants, cafés and street life) and finally a little bit of grit and surprise."

H' for our nearby Carytown and my beloved West of Boulevard South of Cary (WoBSoC) community
[image via Andrew Bain on flickr]
• A mix of shops and services within walking distance -- Check
• A good transport interchange within close proximity -- I can usually get a bus on Robinson Street and sometimes even before then.
• A good park with a body of water for a refreshing plunge nearby -- Well, we certainly have William Byrd Park, the Carillon and Dogwood Dell, but nobody is going to leap into Shield's Lake, and if they do, they'll be arrested. Maymont Park is also within walking distance, and its bosky respite is bolstered by a great nature center and specialized gardens, and Dooley Mansion.
The river is accessible via nearby Texas Beach, which, well. And I confess I've not been in quite some time. But I have that option, which is the point here.
• Independent businesses as a key feature of the community -- Carytown and its tributaries have entrepreneurial characteristics; however, the place has lately taken a beating. Some 21 storefronts are either empty or undergoing transition along the mile long stretch.
The reasons for this are complicated, but at bottom is brute force economics: high rents coupled to too much retail in the region and Outer Bourbian shoppers preferring the malls. Still, this could be turned around by an aggressive marketing campaign, the Carytown association hiring a clean-and-sweep team to tidy the place up, and maybe use one of these storefronts as an information and visitors center. And get some kind of awning that can be temporarily fixed in place to cover the street during events like the Watermelon Festival. Or blistering hot weekends.
• A sense of security (police on the beat or a Japanese-style police box in their neighbourhood) -- We do see more police on bike patrols--during the day. I like the idea of a police box.
• Excellent coffee -- I think we have that; and Starbucks too.
• A little bit of grit and surprise -- Oh, yes. From the Super Chess guy to random wandering addled to meeting friends by happenstance on the street corner to train hobos and their dogs to musicians standing in shop doors on weekends to Scientology protestors. Yeah, we got all that. And pot holes.

But I have the good fortune to live in a central city community (a place that, six years after we moved here, we couldn't afford now). Beyond the expressway, what you see is, in Mr. Brulé's apt description, "ugly sprawls of hideous houses (garages bolted on to the front of houses are far better suited to southern California...)" and awful clogged turnpikes. See the rest of the piece here.

This evening, though we could not jump into the Byrd Park lake, we took our inaugural plunge into the pool we belong to and the water was just right, the sky entertaining, and the music played by the poolistas good background.

Now, it's late, and I have to scuttle off.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Wake, Live And In Color
The passing of a media giant

The death of Meet The Press moderator Tim Russert, at 58, visits bereavement and grief to his immediate circle of family and friends. The nation will be deprived in this current election cycle of his great experience and knowledge of the process. However, I am not under the impression that Russert would've wanted non-stop memorializing of him by his colleagues and associates. These are people whose grief is apparent while they are trying to hold themselves together to give on-air eulogies. This is what they do; they are on television.

We are experiencing a wake, live and in color, and perhaps fitting to the extent that it joins Mr. Russert's faith with his vocation. That being said, however, Mr. Russert was not a head of state. He was not killed by a violent tragedy. He suffered a massive heart attack while preparing for his Sunday telecast. To see images of him, repeating now on almost every cable channel, makes the death all the more surreal. He is gone from this planet, but not yet from television. He has become a ghost in the machine.

The answer to my frustration, of seeking news somewhere that is void of show-biz clatter (Why do new stories need theme music and laser light show graphics?), is to just turn the damn thing off. Which I do. And then enter into an interior debate about whether Turner Classic Movies and Indieplex is worth everything else one must wade through, in addition to the rising expense for, well, passive entertainment. And let's face facts; anything you watch on television, whether its disaster coverage or American Gladiators, is entertainment because you are sitting down and viewing this when you could be doing something else (like, I dunno, reading a book or planting your Victory Garden, or reading a book).

And I know that my time--and, yes, billion-eyed audience--your time-- should be more valuable than parking in front of the Decomposition Box. But I'm just as narcotized by the moving images as anybody. Which is another reason we should just unplug.

Television is sheer subversive genius, whether intended, or not, the effect is the same. Rather than Big Brother watching you, you are watching him, though he comes in many guises and varieties. Oh, it isn't that the individuals are doing anything more than their job. But added up, in totality, this is the most powerful force for information--and persuasion-- ever conceived of. And those who are on the screen with any regularity, in particular if they are in the news aspect, have a tremendous responsibility to the public. But we've come to expect less.

The sudden nature of Mr. Russert's passing comes a shock, to be certain, and that alone has sent many reeling; however, I have felt, that there was an aspect to his position as one of the nation's most visible journalist that, when demonstrated, I found difficult to comprehend.

Below is a video excerpt, with accompanying transcript, from Bill Moyers' methodical demolition of the pretexts for the war in Iraq. I viewed the program when it aired last year, and lost what little faith I had in the major journalistic organizations as institutions: from the New York Times to NBC to you name it. Individual reporters, sometimes acting with great fortitude, stand out as champions. Almost everybody else comes off looking bad, but, the frightening aspect of this is, that those who were supposed to be getting at the truth in these matters of war and peace were instead complicit in their own deception.

Shocking it is to see, there at minute 7:46 in this excerpt, Mr. Russert getting played like a bass viol by Vice-President Dick Cheney. When I watched this, I found it difficult to understand how such a sad situation could come to pass.

Bob Simon, who put his life on the line in Iraq to report this story, leaves in tatters the great credit Russert is given for his research -- at least in respect to this particular moment in time.

DICK CHENEY (MEET THE PRESS NBC 9/8/02): There's a story in the NEW YORK TIMES this morning, this is-- and I want to attribute this to the TIMES. I don't want to talk about obviously specific intelligence sources, but--

JONATHAN LANDAY: Now, ordinarily information like the aluminum tubes wouldn't appear. It was top secret intelligence, and the Vice President and the National Security Advisor would not be allowed to talk about this on the Sunday talk shows. But, it appeared that morning in the NEW YORK TIMES and, therefore, they were able to talk about it.

DICK CHENEY (MEET THE PRESS NBC 9/8/02): It's now public that, in fact, he has been seeking to acquire and we have been able to intercept to prevent him from acquiring through this particular channel the kinds of tubes that are necessary to build a centrifuge and the centrifuge is required to take low-grade uranium and enhance it into highly-enriched uranium which is what you have to have in order to build a bomb."

BILL MOYERS: Did you see that performance?


BILL MOYERS: What did you think?

BOB SIMON: I thought it was remarkable.


BOB SIMON: Remarkable. You leak a story, and then you quote the story. I mean, that's a remarkable thing to do.


CONDOLEEZA RICE (CNN 9/8/02): There will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire a nuclear weapon. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.

ERIC BOEHLERT: Those sorts of stories when they appear on the front page of the so called liberal NEW YORK TIMES, it absolutely comes with a stamp of approval. I mean if the NEW YORK TIMES thinks Saddam is on the precipice of mushroom clouds, then, there's really no debate.

BOB SCHEIFFER: (FACE THE NATION, CBS 9/8/02) We read in the NEW YORK TIMES today a story that says that Saddam Hussein is closer to acquiring nuclear weapons... Does he have nuclear weapons, is there a smoking gun here?

DONALD RUMSFELD: Smoking gun is an interesting phrase.

COLIN POWELL: Then as we saw in reporting just this morning...

TIM RUSSERT: What specifically has he obtained that you believe will enhance his nuclear development program.

BILL MOYERS: Was it just a coincidence in your mind that Cheney came on your show and others went on the other Sunday shows, the very morning that that story appeared?

TIM RUSSERT: I don't know. The NEW YORK TIMES is a better judge of that than I am.

BILL MOYERS: No one tipped you that it was going to happen?

TIM RUSSERT: No, no. I mean-

BILL MOYERS: The Cheney office didn't leak to you that there's gonna be a big story?

TIM RUSSERT: No. No. I mean, I don't have the-- This is, you know-- on MEET THE PRESS, people come on and there are no ground rules. We can ask any question we want. I did not know about the aluminum tubes story until I read it in the NEW YORK TIMES.

BILL MOYERS: Critics point to September eight, 2002 and to your show in particular, as the classic case of how the press and the government became inseparable. Someone in the Administration plants a dramatic story in the NEW YORK TIMES And then the Vice President comes on your show and points to the NEW YORK TIMES. It's a circular, self-confirming leak.

TIM RUSSERT: I don't know how Judith Miller and Michael Gordon reported that story, who their sources were. It was a front-page story of the NEW YORK TIMES. When Secretary Rice and Vice President Cheney and others came up that Sunday morning on all the Sunday shows, they did exactly that.

My concern was, is that there were concerns expressed by other government officials. And to this day, I wish my phone had rung, or I had access to them.


BILL MOYERS: You said a moment ago when we started talking to people who knew about aluminum tubes. What people-who were you talking to?

BOB SIMON: We were talking to people - to scientists - to scientists and to researchers, and to people who had been investigating Iraq from the start.

BILL MOYERS: Would these people have been available to any reporter who called or were they exclusive sources for 60 MINUTES?

BOB SIMON: No, I think that many of them would have been available to any reporter who called.

BILL MOYERS: And you just picked up the phone?

BOB SIMON: Just picked up the phone.

BILL MOYERS: Talked to them?

BOB SIMON: Talked to them and then went down with the cameras.


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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Don't Throw Louise From The Train

Image via who retrieved it via Grapevine Video.

Today I received this link from fellow Brooksian, Vince, about why one should not toss Louise from a freight train. Thank you, Sushiesque, up in Boston. This was a welcome interjection to our Richmond day relieved of oppressive temperatures. Or, at least, oppressive t us.

This film still crackles and I think could be remade, especially with the subculture of young people stowing away these days on freights--some of them runaways, others just yearning for a break from the cul-de-sac archipelago. I see them in Carytown, grimy, backpacked, and usually with a dog.

You could just remake the film, retaining the Depression-era scene, but the wider appeal is to set in now. The tropes are still relevant: young woman escapes an abusive father, poses as a boy, becomes a hobo riding the rails. You could read this story in the New York Post tomorrow.

Who to cast? John Goodman in the Wallace Beery "Oklahoma Red" role. Johnny Depp as Richard Arlen. Anne Hathaway as Louise.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Chained Heat: The hotness, captured by moving wind, abates.

A very young Louise Brooks during her Ziegfield Follies days portraying for us the captured heat, and how the temperatures here are going to dip into the 80s or so, and while there's been glorious breezes, no rain, here in Richmond, Vee-ay.

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Hot, Hot, Hot: Gaze upon her and invite self-abnegation

Image via

She's a sun goddess--maybe by Boris Vallejo, whose athletic, square-jawed, militant-breasted, spear-hefting figures graced the covers of fantasy novels in the 1970s and nurtured my admiration for strong women in brass brassieres. She looks more like a Denishawn Dancer, but I like them, too. 

Anyway, the sun is so powerful today that should anybody be left outside for long, they'll find themselves on their knees on flat on their backs, as though prostrating themselves before Her.

Meanwhile, I water the plants in the morning and in the evening toward dusk, hoping they'll survive for Amie's return from Over There.

My technical issues are resolved -- I hope. More later.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Smokin' Hot In Richmond
A weekend of heat, history and physical and technical mishaps

Billion-eyed audience, little time and too much to tell, really.

First, the BBC site which is my Internet home page has become so glitchy that none of my browsers can bring it up, nor can I alter it in Preferences. HAAAAALP!

Second, I have a scratched right knee, a wrenched ankle and until this morning a bent temple on my glasses. All were unrelated and occurred while I was sober. The knee injury occurred when I slid down the side of my porch while wresting vines creeping across the living room window. The ankle got twisted while walking along in Carytown alongside Double-T's along. This patch has some uneven spots and I think while momentarily distracted I brought my foot down onto what I thought was an even place, but it was depression instead, and OOOFFF, there I went. The glasses got bent when I fell asleep watching Knocked Up.

Third, the weather here has gone from balmy to brutal. Friday we even had smoke pumped up here from an East Carolina forest fire that draped gauzy clouds across the region, and the mercury's rise mirrored the price of gas.

On Colonial Avenue, the cats splay their bodies against the wood floor in an effort to find some cool. I've had to turn on one of the air conditioners that we almost always refrain from until July, or later. But this is for humanitarian, and feline, relief.

The torpid temperture didn't stop the congregants of First Friday. The House of Praise brass band played near Art6 and that alone was worth the bus ride down. Between the heat and the festive character of the gathering, one couldn't help but feel transported to New Orleans. Except they are ours, and we are theirs.

I encountered artist Gillian H. Brown who has a small show upstairs in the Todd Hale rooms of her haunted, tormented and whimsical, funny acrylic-on-paper faces. You can see more of them on her blog, here. Gillian's the coolest, even in this unforgiving torrid zone. By the way, that's her, from her blog portrait.

Finally, I want to thank the Valentine Richmond History Center and Linda Krinsky and Bill, the bus driver, who guided my intrepid hard core history group around town and allowed me to preach before the the Christopher Newport Cross. I forgot my sure fire obscure laugh, "This marker has nothing to do with bearded balladeers who sung themes for Arthur movies." Four people would've gotten it out of the 50 and I would've loved this.

I also want to thank the Lady Susan who tied my bow tie, and surprised her husband of 30 years by knowing how to do so. You learn some things on these tours.

I can almost guarantee that I am the only history tour leader who marched his group in front of the Walnut Alley mural in Shockoe and regaled them with the story of Urban Artists Amalgamated, as recounted in True Richmond Stories. Or, as I referred to the slender volume, 'The greatest book of Richmond history published in October 2007 and republished in March 2008."

The heat further gummed up my synapses because people took pictures and I should've passed out cards and had them sent to me. Duh!

Amie and I spoke Sunday, she in Germany, me in the over warm breakfast nook with overhead fan whirring on Colonial Avenue. She kicked my butt about remembering to tell a story with Ragtime In Richmond. Which is about to rag me out.

I hope to figure out a way around this glitch on the BBC site; if I'm having this problem, I'm not the single one.

I leave you with some posts from James Howard Kunstler's blog. His peak oil-surburbs are crashing-world is ending tropes are consistent, and often eloquent, but in the end, the back-and-forth of the long, trailing comments are what keep me coming back. Of these, I really like montysano's take on the politics of the day.

I've been making book on how the U.S. public takes the coming financial Tidal Wave.

Homicial rage vs Suicidal Rage

Tough call.

Apathy will Not be a choice.

Just read an article (I'll try and find the link) on how many current and recent soldiers are on prozac and similiar drugs, just to cope on a daily basis.

Butt Boy Ben Bernanke should be dropping Prozac out of the helicopter, Not worthless Phunny Money from the Fed 'discount lending window'
Posted by: Lost Horizon | June 09, 2008 at 09:52 AM

Obama will probably be elected president, but if he does he will inherit the wind vis-á-vis Herbert Hoover in 1929 and we will have to wait four years for his successor—either a Democrat or a Republican or even a “Progressive Party” president—(e.g. Henry Wallace)— to start another World War after a similar eight years (1933 – 1941) as was the case with F.D.R., of failing to solve what will come to be seen by future historians as the Second Great Depression. For that reason alone I would have loved seeing Hilary [sic.] as Chief Executive.
Posted by: irahan | June 09, 2008 at 09:59 AM

John McCain can dodder and bumble around the country, without a new or original idea in his head. He does so with the baggage of an heiress wife with a fondness for pharmies, and with the putrid carcass of the Bush administration hung around his neck. And yet, at the end of the day, he still owns 40% or more of the vote. A country this stupid deserves whatever comes its way.
Posted by: montysano | June 09, 2008 at 10:07 AM

Kollatz response: Is it that the country is this stupid, or that we're prevented from having more than just two choices for its highest public office? As DeGaulle said of France, in a nation of 300 cheeses, how can we have just two political parties? I don't think this is as much stupidity as media narco-zation of our thought processes.
Bad habits are difficult to break, even when we know they are detrimental to us, because sacrificing what we regard as normal, means bringing some pain upon ourselves.

Anybody who thinks McLame is totally out of the race has not bothered to dig into the irregularities that occurred during the past 4 elections.

There was a greater statistical probability of having lightening destroy your winning lotto ticket before you could cash it in than there was of obtaining the Ohio 2004 results.

Despite reams of solid, testable data, and a juicy story rife with drama, nary a peep was heard from the Main Stream Media.

And so America will get what it deserves.

And remember to try and act surprised when, against all polling, a McLame victory is plucked from the statistical noise.
Posted by: MaryW | June 09, 2008 at 12:07 PM

Kollatz response: Well, I hope for our sake Mary is wrong. But my fear is, should Obama win, he'll be Carterized or Hoovered by events and poor advice. In a way, maybe for his sake, having McCain left with this rasher of scheit is preferable and perhaps poetic justice.

The Great Deleveraging of the 00's is well underway. (What the heck do we call this decade anyway?) Just read the carnage over at the housing bubble blog (the weekly "local observations" column & commentary is pretty good) and you'll see how fast things are swirling around the bowl...

According to the AAA/OPIS numbers, regular unleaded gasoline went up by 1.8c today to $4.023, and diesel went up 1.1c to $4.773. Diesel was in fact higher-priced at the end of May but had been recovering, while the gasoline price is a new record.

My neighbor's recently-purchased Yukon Denial XL hasn't moved since sometime last week. Besides the repairs it needs, it may have simply burned through the free tankful of gas included with the thing.
Posted by: Nudge | June 09, 2008 at 12:25 PM

Kollatz Responds: Should we call this the "The Aughts of Naught?" "The Awful Aughts."

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Hot Child In The City / Runnin' Wild And Lookin' Pretty

If you are late to the billion-eyed audience, you may not know that these two women, displaying the classic Greek tragedy/comedy duality, represent -- well, here at the Blue Raccoon, anyway -- the arrival of First Friday High Art Hike throughout midtown Richmond. And the ladies will enjoy the summery evening, suitable for their abbreviated dress. It's gonna be a scorcher this weekend.

If you know the story behind the above image, please repeat along. This was taken, and not by me, at an opening several years ago at the vanished Three Miles Gallery and that this space, and an adjacent one, is now the busy Tarrant's Café.

Tonight's gonna be a busy one.

You need to check out Squirrel-O-Rama at the 1708 Gallery featuring the combined talents of the Squirrely Girls. [Image from the exhibition]

The mad cap creatives include James Busby [a Girl, but not a girl], Melanie Christian, Sandra Luckett, and Katie Shaw Sweeney. All attended Virginia Commonwealth University's School of the Arts.

Something for everyone is promised, including music and a campfire, which you may not need tonight, but maybe they'll have marshmallows. With this group, it's bound to be arty and enjoyable and even, dare I say so? Provocative. Here's an indication of what you may expect:

"Several years ago in graduate school The Squirrelly Girls decided to create an outlet from all the heaviness of art and actually use art for enjoyment but remaining focused on their work. Melanie Christian and Sandra Luckett took it upon themselves to throw in some fun and stage a mock wedding celebration between the two. One afternoon the school closed down for an aqua color themed fake wedding with Sally Bowring presiding over the vows. Everyone in the room had to be dressed in the color Aqua. The next event was an Orange Rave in the elevator of the School of Fine Arts. The next event was a miniature winter parade down Broad Street where each Squirrelly Girl construed ‘Mardi Gras’ like winter floats."

There's also a new bi-weekly arts and entertainment publication hereabouts, Live Canvas Mag. The outfit trumpets itself with the great pride: "No opinion. No politics. No BS." OK fine.

But the calendar needs to be updated; the Firehouse Cabaret isn't up at the Firehouse Theater's Reefer Madness! Which I saw last night, and it's exuberant, crazy, man, crazy fun.

Years ago, I vowed that the Firehouse, of which I'm a co-founder and a former president, would never produce musicals. Which goes to show that one should never say never. But that was before such strange delights came along as Batboy: The Musical, Hedwig and the Angry Inch and The Last Five Years, among others --and we've done all of them, in addition to our cabarets.

I love watching the singing and dancing excitement explode all over the stage, and into the audience and throughout the place.

Like Batboy!: The Musical, which uses the framework of Greek tragedy to tell an absurd story that's actually affecting, the sort of dramatic scarecrow that Reefer Madness clothes is Shakespearean, that is, Romeo and Juliet -- and zombie movies.

Director Jase Smith understands that in the world of the production, Reefer Madness is a high school anti-drug play that gives license for uptight kids to let loose their ids and their libidinal energies. So the play isn't camp so much as just gosh darn funny because for most of the time, it's played straight-faced with earnestness. At least that's what I think. Or I could be high.

Matt Beyer, as the Lecturer, is the serious center around which the hurly burly hummer muggery swirls. He also assumes several rolls and wears a mean pair of ram's horns.

I don't know if Mike Rieman (Jimmy) and Jacquelynn Camden (Mary Lane) studied Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland movies, but they play it as if they did. Camden reminds me of a cross between Cheri Oteri and Ellen Greene.

The titian-haired Kimberly Jones-Clark gets one of the show's meatier roles--and has one of its better voices-- as the drug house moll Mae whose addiction to the weed keeps her in a violent and co-dependent relationship with Jack (Chris Hester) who is a hissable evil pusher and a hipster Jesus (with a noticeable Mondrian tattoo on his right shoulder--reflecting the many parts and multi-hued characters of the Son of Man and Jack?). [Image via]

But two of my favorite characters were the Placard Girls, Caylyn Temple and Jackie Prater. I loved'em. They come up to the podium and in stereo highlight the moral teachings of the play with their cards. If I'd seen the show a week ago, like I'd thought I would, I would've hired them to come along as my Historyettes for the Kollatz Does Richmond tour tomorrow.

I attended this performance in the accompaniment of an orchestra from the arts support group OPUS. These are swell folks, and much better looking than me. I sat in the "Reefer Den" which is an assortment of couches where you can eat munchies while you down your adult beverage. I enjoy a show that is just perfect for the space, and happy that the Firehouse is there to provide the stage.

After the show, I got to ride a River City Rickshaw twice on my way, first, to the Metro Grill and then to the New York Deli. Fun to clap my hands and shout, "Rickshaw!" Closest you can get in Richmond to hailing a cab. That's arriving in eco-friendly style.

Finally, as though the mellow of Richmonders wasn't harshed enough today by the stock market falling like an elevator without brakes due to greater unemployment figures and spiking gas prices, then the climbing mercury and sticky humidity didn't help, nor a gray pall that hung over the city.

This morning, many of us here went sniffing around our houses suspecting a fire or one nearby. Nope, turns out that the Sargasso Sea atmospheric conditions is sending us the smoke from a huge Eastern North Carolina forest fire. This is occurring in a nature preserve --which means that unless there's substantial rain on that piece of the country, the fire could burn for two months. It stinks, all the way around.

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