Saturday, March 11, 2006

Aurora as seen in the skies above Rapid City, South Dakota
in 2005. Posted by Picasa

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship,but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings."

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor
in a speech yesterday

The Daily Babble

Weather, Whither?

This has been one freaky first week of March hereabouts. First of all, I've heard more thunder in the past month or so than in the previous nine years put together. We had a long string of unusually warm and sunny days in February (usually the rainiest or second rainest month of the year) and so far in March it's been all clouds and precip, but lately also cold. It just doesn't get this cold for this long here.

We have a lot of microclimates here on the North Coast. It's not unusual for it to be ten or twenty degrees warmer or sometimes colder just a few miles inland from the temperature around the bay or in the coastal zone, and even more extreme variation at 40 or 50 miles. And the hills and mountains also have that kind of variation from the coastal temps. But when the weather is freaky, the microclimates get even smaller and the variations greater. So today, the second of what looks like four or five cold days (it's below freezing right now, in the mid 20sF, which almost never happens here) people coming to work at Humboldt State could report a morning of: rain, golf-ball sized hail mixed with sleet or snow, sleet mixed with rain, or snow---half a foot of it by morning just twenty minutes from where I'm sitting, though the sight of a snowflake here would be recorded in the history books.

I talked to a guy today who works in Arcata, but got up early to drive up to the nearest peak and take a long walk in the snow before work. I wish I'd thought of it. By afternoon there were just patches visible from town. But as I was working the net this afternoon, broody clouds turned suddenly to sunshine, and simultaneously it began to rain. And when the rain stopped, it got all gray again. Freaky.

I notice that everytime someone mentions weather on a blog, people from all over the world comment on the strange weather where they live. Apart from the obvious climate crisis, it does get you thinking about how prophecies of apocalyptic times often involve the weather or other natural phenomena. And the remarkable coincidences of natural disasters at times of the unnatural disasters that civilizations inflict on themselves. Like the dust storms of the Depression, which was also when one of the most violent hurricanes in the country's history ripped through Long Island, New York.

So while our weather is freaking out, we're reading of the Bush government falling apart at the edges (at the very least), with a Secretary of Interior bolting ahead of more Abramoff scandals, and the White House's top domestic adviser and enforcer of fundamentalist dogmas on public health agencies in the areas of reproductive health, birth control and AIDS, arrested for systematic frauds on low-end department stores for a total of $5,000. And a prominent GOPer talk show host saying he's embarrassed to be a Republican. And now Justice Sandra Day O'Connor ripping into the Republican right for dangerous attacks on the judiciary, and uttering the word "dictatorship" in the quote above. Could the world be ending? Or just Karl Rove's world?

And then there's Iran and Iraq and the hard place between. I saw "Washington Week," the heavily energy-related corporately sponsored blatherfest on what's fraudulently called public television, and those reporters actually had their blood up over all this, including the still ongoing Dubai port deal and port security in general. Now in terms of intellect the collective wattage of this group typically is maybe enough to light up the inside of a refrigerator but I wouldn't want to try to read by it. So when they see the Bushites floundering, something is definitely hanging in the wind.

I'm looking out for falling frogs.

Friday, March 10, 2006

by Rene Magritte Posted by Picasa

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

“The only difference between Bush and Hitler is that Hitler was elected.”

Kurt Vonnegut
at Ohio State University 2006

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Sol Posted by Picasa

Captain Future's Log

Solar Storm Clouds Ahead

It's a big story, even if Keay Davidson at the San Francisco Chronicle is one of the few who noticed it. A group of scientists from NASA, the National Science Foundation, the National Center for Atmospheric Research and other agencies announced that the earth is about to be bombarded by radiation from the sun, in what may be the most intense sunspot cycle since the 1950s.

Computer models show it could begin as early as this year, but almost certainly will peak in 2012. This intense period typically lasts 11 years. This radiation can disrupt electrical power, radio and microwaves, knock satellites and spacecraft out of orbit, and bathe certain areas of the upper atmosphere with radiation at potentially dangerous levels.

If all this proves out, there are a couple of aspects that will be different this time than in the 1950s or the 1700s, the last time it was nearly this intense. The first is the rise of microwave and satellite communication, and our growing dependence on them. Much of the onrush into this dependence has been without planned redundancy (systems that will work when they don't), although there is some redundancy still existing just from inertia (i.e. people like me who still use land line telephones. However, satellites are often still involved. )

But severe sun spot activity could disrupt--could maybe even fry--cell phones, satellite links and global GPS. No one knows how bad it could get, because the current level of radio and microwave dependence is new. There was nothing like it in the 1950s.

As for satellites, the weaker solar storms of the 1970s are suspected to have forced the U.S. Skylab space station to fall out of orbit prematurely.

The second factor that to my knowledge no one is yet considering is the chemical makeup of the atmosphere, especially in terms of greenhouse gases and ozone depletion. Whether anyone has actually considered this chemistry or its possible effects, it is another difference from the last intense solar storm period.

In a sane society, people would be thinking about this, planning ahead. But then, our leaders apparently don't believe in a global phenomenon that is already well underway. What chance do we have of getting ahead of one that's yet to come?

The difference could be that people now making money might lose money if they don't plan ahead for the solar storms. Whereas in the case of global heating, the people who might make money from building the technology and infrastructure necessary to begin dealing with it, may not be the people making the big money now. Why they don't seem to want to be the businesses of the future is yet another mystery.
When Numbers Don't Count

The most recent Gallup poll shows that der Bush now receives the highest "strongly disapprove" rating of any President since Richard Nixon in his Final Days. The Big Smirk joins The Big Scowl as the only presidents to score above 40% in this category.

Twice the percentage of Americans strongly disapprove (44%) of Bush than strongly approve (20%). Though contempt for Bush among Democrats is relatively unchanged, it is dramatically higher among independents--a majority now strongly disapproves. For the first time, less than half of Republicans strongly approve.

Nevertheless, there appears to be no lessening of the Bushite assault on everything from our food to our public lands, from our civil liberties to privacy, from one poisoned and increasingly lifeless sea to the other shining with oil slick sea . Well on their way to absolute power, already corrupted absolutely.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

remnant of exploding star as seen by two observatories Posted by Picasa

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"I've often had the feeling that as I grow older the country is becoming more primitive, certainly more stupid and impolite. One certainly notices it with airlines, the government, restaurants and hotels and among doctors. You are forever dodging the invisible shrapnel of free-floating contentiousness. You are frankly suspect if you don't act appropriately dead within the market-driven mono-ethic of pay and shut up. People yap about the bottom line as if it existed anywhere but in hell."

A character in The Road Home
by Jim Harrison

Bertolt Brecht Posted by Picasa
The Accidental Brecht-a-thon

I've lately been in the uncomfortable position of writing a column called "Stage Matters," about North Coast theatre (for the North Coast Journal weekly) while also doing publicity for shows produced by Humboldt State University Department of Theatre, Film & Dance. These are freelance gigs which taken together, frankly don't add up to a minimum wage job, but they do require some tip-toeing around possible conflict of interests.

And neither of them legitimately affords me the panorama of opinion, based not on columnist or even reviewer point of view, but in my capacity as self-appointed armchair director and imaginary producer as well. How to reconcile all these?

By blogging, of course. So you may see the full range of my unsolicited views and off-center scholarship on the recent coincidental Bertolt Brecht festival at Blue Voice. For further background on Brecht and Mother Courage with useful links, there's the publicist produced Mother Courage at HSU blog.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Daily Babble

The Academy Rewards

I'm sorry but I love the Oscars show. I enjoy seeing people who have been honored for their work, which often extends over years for even a short documentary. Hundreds of people devote significant pieces of their lives to each movie, and for even most winners, this is their only significant moment of being praised and honored in a career that is typically fraught with difficulty, doubt and lots and lots of opposition.

Even those who have won elsewhere can get emotional about this moment, and their speeches are often generous, not only to others but to the process and to the kind of films they care about making.

I realize this is not why most people watch. I gave up going to Oscars-watching parties long ago, because all they seemed to be about was dishing, and taking delight in celebrities who dressed disastrously and otherwise made fools of themselves.

There was plenty to dish about this year, as all years, like that incredibly tasteless flaming car wreck for the song from "Crash." And I have a specific gripe in a few things they left out.

Still, as Jon Stewart and George Clooney pointed out (satirically or otherwise), the Hollywood creative community as represented by the Academy is about the most congenial institution to a certain political as well as creative point of view. The two--political and creative--have always gone naturally together for me. So this is in a goofy and certainly impure way a tribute to that as well. It isn't all lip or even celluloid service either--with winners from or about China, South Africa, Japan, African-America, Latin America and Latino America, etc. plus as usual in recent years, a lot of Aussies.

But basically, I've always felt this way about the Oscars: I enjoy seeing and listening to the winners. (Though it does help when I don't have a horse among the losers.) The only difference is that when I was sitting in a small town bar fighting back tears as Michael Douglas and cohorts won all the major Oscars for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, saying that it took five years to get anyone to believe it was worth making, I was still holding on to a wild hope that I would be part of that process one day. (It wasn't totally insane---I had friends who were, including a few who were at the Oscars as nominees.) Now my identification is totally vicarious and increasingly distant, as those dreams have gone the way of most others. There are still usually a few films to identify with in terms of wishing to have been part of them, though I see fewer new movies.

Now if I had it to do over again, I might try becoming a really good gaffer. Film crews have a lot of fun.