Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Theory of Everything

Hi-De-Ho Rene,

I didn't see the first broadcast of the NOVA special on string theory -- The Elegant Universe -- but I'm considering the second showing, on Nov. 4, must-see educational TV.

I've read most of string theorist Brian Greene's wonderful book that inspired the NOVA special in an effort to understand a little more about string theory and its possible implications on a grand "theory of everything." I say I've read "most" of the book, because I've put it down at difficult points, requiring me to double back and re-read chapters before I'm back up to speed.

String theory is fascinating, although not immune to criticism. Maybe it's just my simple understanding of it, but while it is difficult to conceptualize (try this exercise about imagining even a fourth dimension; string theorists claim 10 or 11), it does not fundamentally challenge my worldview (or universe-view?). Extra dimensions are plausible to me. It almost seems like string theory is the rationalist's way to come around to accepting as truth something that cannot be understood or proven. Some of us call that faith: The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

But will there ever be a "theory of everything"? Brian Greene himself acknowledges that there are limits to our understanding:

"No matter how hard you try to teach your cat general relativity, you're going to fail. There we have an example of an intelligent living being that will never know this kind of truth about the way the world is put together. Why in the world should we be any different? We can certainly go further than cats, but why should it be that our brains are somehow so suited to the universe that our brains will be able to understand the deepest workings?"

But it's sure fun to try! So, mark your calendar, program TiVo -- whatever it takes. Next Tuesday is the final hour of the special (looks like it coincides with the stuff I've yet to fully absorb, like the implications of the mysterious M-theory). With luck our local PBS stations will replay the first two hours soon.


Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Trying out sound on our blog

Hi Kari,

I'm doing this post because I'm an experimentalist. Getting pictures onto the blog was one experiment and now we feel pretty comfortable doing that. Now, I'll try to introduce sound!

I know little about music at a technical level but I know what I like. One of my favorite symphonic works is Shostakovich Symphony #5. It takes you through scary grinding menacing sounds to parts that are sad but beautiful to the rousing conclusion that sounds triumphant but is a pyrrhic victory.

To hear a clip of the first 20 seconds from the 4th movement, click here for an MP3 (337K) file.

Now, go ahead and click here for that same portion as interpreted by another conductor on another MP3 (234K) file.

Did it work on your computer?

If it did, can you hear a difference?

One clip was the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam under the baton of Bernard Haitink and the other was by the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Leonard Bernstein.

I have to confess I wasn't prepared for the rather large difference!

Shostakovich was trained and worked within the totalitarian regime of the Soviet Union. As such, he did his share of appropriately heroic and patriotic music. But musicians are if anything rebellious types and when he strayed compositionally, the critics and government bosses came down on him.

One example of his heroic music was Symphony #7 which was written partly when he lived in Leningrad during its siege in World War II. Eventually, he was asked to leave Leningrad because as a composer he had morale value to the nation. He eventually finished the work and it premiered with the orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre. It was then played in Moscow and a microfilmed version of the score was even shipped to the USA for a special radio broadcast (the USA and USSR were allies in WWII). The work was hailed by the USSR government as a great patriotic work. Shostakovich didn't object because he saw the suffering of the people of Leningrad first hand. However, later in life, he would say (quoting the notes in my CD), "I was thinking of the enemies of humanity when I composed the theme [found in the first movement] ... I have nothing against calling the Seventh the 'Leningrad' Symphony, but it's not about Leningrad under siege, it's about the Leningrad that Stalin destroyed and that Hitler merely finished off ... "

Likewise, Symphony #5 (pre-WWII) received acclaim by the government because it sounded victorious and served the needs of the USSR. But in reality, Shostakovich was in his own way criticizing the government. He described this work (quoting the notes in my CD), "I think that it is clear to everyone what happens in the Fifth ... It's as if someone were beating you with a stick and saying, 'Your business is rejoicing, your business is rejoicing' and you rise, shakily, and go off muttering, 'Our business is rejoicing, our business is rejoicing.'"


P.S. If there are some web savvy readers out there, please let me know if the way I have it configured is the best way to yield playable MP3 audio clips. Thanks!

Monday, October 27, 2003

Getting on my shoebox

Dear Kari,

I'll try not to be too preachy. However, I just have to let you and our readership know about a terrific effort called, Operation Christmas Child. My church participates in it each year and we got our first announcement about it yesterday.

I hope your church and any service organizations you are a part of plan to participate in this effort or others like it.

Sometimes, people might ask, are such things worth it? People overseas have so many needs that this seems too little. But given the choice of doing what we can versus doing nothing at all, I think it is a no-brainer. And maybe someday, we will find ourselves doing more. In the end, the emotional struggle we face when we open our eyes to see the needs of the world is the realization there is so much of it and then the temptation to despair leading to inaction. This train of thought must be resisted.

I hope these kinds of efforts here and overseas will gather support.

I'll get off my soapbox now.

Be well,

Friday, October 24, 2003

Disney Hall Clamor

Hello Kari,

As you might (or might not) know the opening Gala of the long awaited Disney Hall took place last night. The concert was broadcast on two NPR stations using the same feed (KCRW and KUSC) and the one commerical classical station (KMZT). Local TV and print media have been all over it. What are people outside of LA saying?

I figured I should visit our "blogparents" and see what is cooking there.

Our "blogparents" were quick to pounce on the NY Times critic with the following jabs:
I was planning to make fun yet again of the NYTimes' absurd and always-hyperventilating radical-architecture propagandist Herbert Muschamp, whose topic today is Frank Gehry's new Walt Disney Concert Hall in L.A., here. Muschamp is quite the phenomenon, about as dizzy and self-entranced a writer as I've ever run across. I'm not sure this is logically possible, but it seems that every time I read him I think, "He's outdone himself again!" as well as "What's this guy on?"
He is not alone at roasting the NY Times writer and links to another culture watcher where the roasting goes on as seen in this post where the knives are out for not only the NY Times writer but for Gehry and his work.
Building Toward a Greater Revolution
Herbert Muschamp, the New York Times’ uber-pretentious architecture critic is uber the moon today about the Frank Gehry designed Walt Disney Concert Hall that opens tonight in Los Angeles.

In Muschamp the Magnificent’s opinion – as if any other mattered – Disney Hall is a wondrous, ecstatic success.
How about concert hall into shapeless pile of debris at the stroke of midnight.
In actual fact, Disney Hall is just another one of Gehry’s signature titanium coprolites that litter the sidewalks of Bilbao, Seattle, and Cleveland with alarming frequency.

There is nothing new about this building that was not new the last time or the time before that.

It’s as if Frank Lloyd Wright built Fallingwater over and over again in different locations every few years to ever increasing praise.
So what did the offending NY Times writer say to draw such deliciously malicious glee? See for yourself if you wish. It is actually a pretty funny read and I have to agree there is a certain gradious and frentic way about this guy. But he *liked* the building and the experience! Har, har, a New Yorker liking something in Los Angeles? Unbelieveable!

What follows below are a few excerpts where there is some obligatory Los Angeles bashing and then some nice remarks.
LOS ANGELES — Walt Disney Concert Hall, the new home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, is a French curve in a city of T squares. The T squares are loving it madly. Why shouldn't they? Disney Hall was designed for them. It's a home for everyone who's ever felt like a French curve in a T square world.

Designed by Frank Gehry, the $274 million hall opens on Oct. 23. Esa-Pekka Salonen, the Philharmonic's charismatic young music director, will conduct "The Rite of Spring." Wrong season, right rite: Disney Hall is a riotous rebirth. Not just for downtown Los Angeles, where the building is situated, and not just for the whole sprawling mixed-up La-La. What is being reborn is the idea of the urban center as a democratic institution: a place where voices can be heard.

Disney Hall has at least a dual personality and moods enough to spare. On the outside it is a moon palace, a buoyant composition of silvery reflected light. Inside, the light shifts to gold.

Sitting atop the downtown Bunker Hill district, Disney Hall is the most gallant building you are ever likely to see. And it will be opening its doors to everyone who has fought for the chance to be generous, to others and to themselves.
When I saw the models of the final design, I remember thinking that the seats on the top row of the house looked a bit sad. There are only a few, widely spaced: they appear exposed. But when I finally got to sit in one, I felt downright special. Seeing those seats from a distance is also a pleasure, because the people sitting in them register as individuals, just as the musicians do. The audience feels less like a mass, more like a diverse assembly. The hall is full of such reminders that architecture is a philosophy of urban life.
You don't need an architecture critic to tell you how beautifully this desert garden is ruled by Surreal juxtaposition. But let me point you toward a fine example of it as an ideal approach to Disney Hall: the fabulous Bunker Hill Steps.

Designed by Lawrence Halprin and completed in 1990, this local landmark ascends 103 steps from the street opposite the downtown Central Library to the top of Bunker Hill. Flanking the grand flight is a set of up and down escalators; down the center, water cascades over rocks.

Because of its height and the baroque curves of its treads, it is often compared to the Spanish Steps in Rome. Usually the comparison is accompanied by snickers. In truth the stairs are a comic piece of infrastructure: the baroque and the mechanized side by side; cold canyon corporate architecture with Mediterranean splash. But thanks to Disney Hall, Halprin's staircase has surpassed the Spanish Steps in cultural substance. The ascent now moves toward an emotional climax. Each skyscraper, plaza and skywalk is a step on the way to one civilizing thought: To speak is human, but to listen is divine.
Two of the three people above could probably stand to take a chill pill or two. I'm pleased to say that our blogparent skated close but pulled back from the abyss.

You can love it or hate it but let's not go ballistic and start ranting one way or the other. I know, I know, maybe its my Angelino pride getting in the way in regards to invisiblehand's rant. I'll admit that. And I suppose NY Times guy is a bit over the top for my rationalistic molecular biologist personality. I'll admit that too.

Writers and bloggers by nature are passionate (!) and rebellious (?) because they are advocates of a point of view and believe what they (we) have to say could (should) be read by others; thus, hyperventilation is normal or merely an sporatic occupational hazard?

At this point, Kari, you would hand me a brown paper bag so I'll stop hyperventilating or would you be egging me on?

Not surprisingly, the LA Times has favorable reveiws here and here.

Be well,

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Taste in movies: America and the rest of the world?

Hi Kari,

Thanks for the idea of checking IMDB for box office data. With a little mouse clicking, I was able to find data on how various movies fared here in the USA and in other parts of the world.

I also did a web search and found (doh!) and got more data to chew on.

I would guess if I picked up the phone to call you and asked you to name the top five money making movies in the USA in 2003, you could probably rattle them off. For those of us less in the know about movies they are: Finding Nemo, Pirates, Matrix: Reloaded, Bruce Almighty and T3.

Now, for the more tricky question. In relative terms, how well did those movies fare outside the USA?

What I mean is this: if a movie "the Life of Kari" makes $300 million here in the USA and draws $600 million overseas then we would predict the movie "the Life of Rene" which garners $1000 in the USA would bank another $2000 overseas if audience tastes overseas are the same as in the USA. Right?

I know it is a crude back of the envelope type of calculation but I did the numbers.

May I have the envelope please?


Have a nice weekend,

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Got your ears on?

Hi-De-Ho Rene,

Have you seen what Glenn Reynolds writes about the CB Revolution, prompted by a snarky comment made by a NYT writer about weblogs, at Tech Central Station? He links it to the end of the 55-mph speed limit and the beginning of the Reagan Revolution. A stretch? You decide.

Growing up in a big city, you may not have experienced the cultural revolution of the Citizens’ Band radio. But out here in the sticks, CB was king.

Looks like we got us a convoy…

There was something alluring and romantic about the rebel image of CB users, even to a kindergartener. The greasy spoon on the edge of the small town I grew up in was a hot spot for truckers. It was the kind of place with red plastic tumblers, flat pieces of runny cherry pie, and a jukebox loaded with songs celebrating the CB, from Convoy to Teddy Bear. Thrilling and slightly scary, it was my absolute favorite place to watch people.

When our family and some close friends drove to Chicago in 1976, we borrowed CBs so we could communicate between cars. I was almost breathless with anticipation of all the “Breaker, Breaker, 1-9”-ing that awaited us. But the adults wouldn’t let the kids talk on them; they didn’t want to clutter the frequencies that truckers needed to do their jobs. C’mon! Where’s the romance and rebellion in that?

A couple years later, one of our neighbors, a grownup who lived with his parents and spent most of his time smoking and cleaning guns in a lawn chair, paid my brother and I in six-packs of Mello-Yello to chamois his car. The CB radio mounted on the dash in his Dodge Charger completed his image.

The CB is not quite obsolete, either. My aunt and uncle used CBs on their farm until very recently, when my uncle was persuaded to switch to cell phones. (My uncle’s handle was PloughBoy; my aunt’s was Calico. Cool.) But out on the open road, you can’t call the trucker driving next to you in the granny lane unless you know his number.

Breaker 1-9, this here's the Rubber Duck. You got a copy on me, Pig Pen? C'mon…

Anyway, if weblogs are the new CBs, at least I've finally become a rebel. Over and out.


Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Disney Hall Postscript: A rose by any other name...

Good Afternoon Kari:

Back in my post of October 11, I showed some photos of the Disney Hall which is the big news story in Southern California (I refuse to be drawn into following the Kobe case which is also soaking up the news oxygen here) because it is opening this weekend to some big bash galas. Being a subscriber, I got an invitation to buy tickets. Alas, the "cheap" seats were $500 and I'm not in the tax bracket to be buying such tickets.

Yesterday, the Disney Hall had a ribbon cutting ceremony and celebration. See this LA Times story for all the details. Here is an excerpt:
Los Angeles architect Gehry, however, explained how he designed a floral pattern that adorns Disney Hall's carpets and seats in homage to just one woman: the late Lillian Disney, whose $50-million gift in 1987 set the project in motion. The hall is also flower-like in form and is surrounded by lush gardens.

"I told her I'd make a flower garden for her," said Gehry, as he leaned into a clear podium with his hands clasped. Gehry described his role in the project as "a great experience, personally."
So that is what it is, eh?

Also check out this item from and be sure to click on the slideshow with wonderful photos.


UPDATE: The interior of the Hall has the look of sailing ships. The interior design was guided by several factors like the desire to have the audience sit at all sides of the stage area and the acoustic design team. On various interview shows, Gehry has commented that some of the exterior's sweeping shapes were meant to match with the interior. In the end, maybe it is asking too much to say it "looks" like this or that?

Chiefs are 7-0!!!

Kansas City Kari:

One part of our "charter" in setting up this duo-blog is to explore some of the regional differences we experience.

Los Angeles does not have and has not had an NFL team for some time, thus, I have no local team of interest to follow. Since I'm a UCLA alum, I follow UCLA as my college local team of interest. But for the NFL, I am somewhat of a bandwagoneer. Having lived in the DC metro area a few years, I still keep an eye on the Redskins who are now coming back to earth after a nice start. I lived briefly in San Francisco and I see they too have fallen on tough times after quite a few years on the top of the pile.

When you have the chance, do fill me in on how the Chiefs are viewed by you and your fellow Kansas Citians (is that what you call yourselves?) and Kansans? Are they exceeding expectations? Are they right on track? Are high hopes running rampent among the fans?

And since Kansas City is also on the Missouri side of the boarder, how do Missourians divy up their loyalties between the Chiefs and the St. Louis Rams?

Thinking of joining the bandwagon,

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Echos of faith


You bring up a pertinent observation about our times.

A couple weeks ago, I was talking to a friend who is really into music history. He was telling me that the Mass liturgy has a minimum of five parts: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei.

At one time, most people knew Kyrie means "Lord have mercy" and would recite it as an honest prayer. Eventually, people knew what it means and could recite it but it was just mere words. And now, in this point in history, most people may or may not know what it means and do not recite it.

Historically, as you point out, Christianity and the arts were extensively linked in music, in paintings, in sculpture, in stained glass of churches, in altar pieces, in illustrations for hand copied Bibles and in literature. The arts were a manifestation of the creative spark and infused with theology.

But somewhere in the march of time, religious faith retreated from the arts and for that matter many domains of life.

Europe has been described as in a post-Christian era where church attendance (a crude surrogate marker for religious devotion) is minimal and belief in god is low. America to some extent has bucked that trend in that church attendance is still moderate and belief in god (often perhaps in a generic sense) remains high.

Thus, the booming sound of faith of the ages remains at least as an echo in society and in clarity among those who believe. It is this reality, that the echo still has resonance, that has allowed a film like Bruce Almighty to be made by a mainstream studio with well known actors, discuss faith in an honest way and garner an audience.

What did you think of that film?

Some aspects of the film were religious in a generic sense but some were subtly but definitely Christian. If you haven't seen it yet, do check out this interview with the director Tom Shadyac.

Here in Los Angeles, this week in fact, the City of Angeles Film Festival will have its annual run. Most if not all of the films do not grow out of a Christian foundation. However, spiritual truth can be accessed by those who do not acknowledge faith. And so the festival looks for that echo of spirituality. I hope to catch a film or two but right now, my schedule is not looking promising to my disappointment.

With our film literate readership, I'd like to ask, what films would you suggest to organizers of your local film festival patterned after City of Angels?

Be well,

UPDATE: Came across this article entitled, "What is acceptable music these days?" which discusses Christian musicians and some of the criticism they have taken from Christians for going "mainstream."

Friday, October 17, 2003

Kyrie Eleison, indeed

Hi-De-Ho Rene,

The other day I bought a CD by a Christian musician (and native Kansan/K-State alum) named Mark Schultz, as recommended by a friend of mine. What caught my ear was his cover of the Mr. Mister hit “Kyrie Eleison.” As a youngster I didn’t like ‘80s pop music, but “Kyrie” was an exception because it sounded like the band was singing a slightly muddled version of my name. When you’re 14, that’s pretty cool.

As a mostly-grownup, I know that “Kyrie eleison” translated from the Greek is “God have mercy.” Stanzas like this now make more sense:

Kyrie eleison, down the road that I must travel
Kyrie eleison, through the darkness of the night
Kyrie eleison, where I'm going will you follow
Kyrie eleison, on a highway in the light

Got me thinking: How many pop songs or other pop-culture artifacts these days use Christian themes that audiences don’t necessarily recognize as such?

For centuries, the imagery and traditions of the church fueled the arts. Now, I’m not trying to compare the Sistine Chapel to the Billboard charts (I’ll leave the pop culture vs. high culture debate to the readers at 2Blowhards), but it is interesting how little of contemporary arts – fine or pop – are directly inspired by faith or even religious tradition. (That statement does not apply to ironic or postmodernist religious references, which are in a mini-boom.) I suppose, in a pluralist society, it’s not surprising that what does make it into the mainstream is not transparently “Christian.”

There are exceptions: U2. Bob Dylan, sometimes. Johnny Cash (The Man). Van Morrison. Nick Cave, a seeker testing Christian themes. R&B and country musicians often have roots in gospel, which they refer to on occasion.

Tangentially, had you heard about Prince? He became a Jehovah’s Witness recently, and his 2002 release included religious imagery. Can you imagine having the artist formerly known as The Artist Formerly Known As Prince standing on your front porch proselytizing you? These people can. Whoa.


Seen on the web

Hi Kari,

After all that angst over the Cubs and the Red Sox, I just had to laugh when I saw this post. I'll pipe one of the images onto our blog here for our reader's enjoyment.


Thursday, October 16, 2003

Deja vu all over again?!

Oh, Karnack One Kari:

As I watched Pedro begin to get into trouble in the bottom of the eighth inning, I wondered, are they going to leave him in there to lose the lead? Yup, they did and they did.

You commented earlier today in the comments file:
I think I'll root for a late-in-the-series meltdown from the Beantown boys that will make everybody forget Bill Buckner.
I guess that shows our dear readers that you are the clear-eyed sports analyst and I'm the hopeless romantic rooting for the star-crossed Cubs and Red Sox. We are not worthy, we bow before the great sports guru from Kansas.

So tell us Karnac One Kari, who wins between the Fish and those darn Yankees?

Have a nice weekend,

P.S. As a Dodger fan, I cannot root for the Yankees. The Marlins in SEVEN.

UPDATE: I stand corrected, Kari, you were rooting for the Red Sox (see comments file for this post). You correctly forcasted something would go wrong, it just happened sooner. I was rooting for the BoSox but after Pedro surrendered the lead I went to the Rite Aide store a few blocks from my apartment to get some household items and took my Walkman. I just had a feeling it was going to go badly for them so I only had it on a few minutes at a time. At the checkout counter, the clerk saw me laughing a pained laugh and he asked what's up? I said, Yankees just won with a homer.

Well, at least I didn't Scream

Hi-De-Ho Rene,

Has your home ever been burglarized?

Mine was a few years ago, when I lived in Topeka. The burglar(s) didn’t take much – a cup of loose change and a jewelry box from my Grandma that contained items with little more than sentimental value – but every closet and drawer in my house had been opened, and the front doorjamb was destroyed. The burglar(s) picked the week of Thanksgiving to spread this particular brand of good will.

I bring this up because last night I had a reminder of it. I got home late from a dinner meeting. My sister was still at work. When I opened the screen door and put my key in the deadbolt, I realized that the door was slightly ajar. I pushed it open all the way, heart already pounding. I waited to hear the three warning beeps of the alarm system, which would signal that the alarm was still set and all was well. I heard them.

But in the dozen steps from the door to the keypad, all sorts of scenarios started racing through my head: What if someone HAD broken in, either managing to avoid tripping the alarm or resetting it so that I’d have a false sense of security? I almost punched in the panic code rather than the disarm code, but realized quickly that my imagination was running a bit wild. After all, if someone breaking in would think to set the alarm, why wouldn’t they bother to close the front door? Whew.

But then, as I walked back towards the door in the dark, I noticed that the basement light was on, and I heard two distinct “thumps.” I was outside in a flash. I summoned the nerve to ask a neighbor to come over while I checked every nook and cranny of the house. All was well. Neighbor went home. Then I realized I hadn’t checked the garage: Did that, things seemed fine, but then another “thump.” I decided the noise was probably coming from my dog running in and out of the dog door from the back yard to his corner of the garage; I let him in the house so he’d stop scaring me.

Didn’t work, because when Dutch got inside he was wound up, sniffing around like crazy. He found a scent trail that made him dart up to the second floor. While I stood below, still slightly unnerved, I heard him running back and forth among the rooms upstairs, something he normally does not do (usually Dutch’s first task is to stand by his food bowl and let out a single, plaintive bark). He kept returning to one particular room, which at that moment I couldn’t remember having checked. Then another “thump” – and I was outside again.

I was frightened enough to go back to the neighbor, swallowing my pride even though I was pretty sure I was being ridiculous. We did the room check thing again, which made me realize that the scent Dutch had picked up was probably the neighbor’s from the first time around. Doh.

You know who is at fault for my irrational panic? (Not me, of course.) Hollywood! Think “Scream,” or any of the “Halloween” movies and knockoffs. Or “The Silence of the Lambs” and its innumerable imitators. I don’t like horror movies, so I haven’t seen many, but the idea of persistent, sometimes hyperintelligent bogeymen who devise impossibly complex ways to snare their victims has permeated our culture.

In real life, most criminals are not so evil and definitely not so smart. They’re more like the burglar(s) who broke into my house in Topeka – they take change and cheap jewelry but leave behind small electronics and collector’s items. They cause more damage than they gain in loot. The danger they present is more likely related to them thinking they’re smart enough to get away with something smart people would never try.

So, Angelino, was my scaredy-cat episode unique to the feminine experience, or do things that go bump in the night trigger a response in men too?


Triumph of Hope over Reason?


I confess, I listened to the Cubs game on the radio. I knew they weren't going to win but I just had to listen to see if they could somehow overcome the emotional hurdle of the game 6 debacle and decades of futility. I wanted to believe.

Is this a example writ large of the phenomena of the "self-fulfilling" prophecy? This team snatched defeat from the jaws of victory or should I say from the glove of Alou?

But we do have to give credit to the Marlins. The ESPN analysts on the radio made the point many, many times how the Marlin hitters had prolonged at bats to wear down the Cub pitching staff. In fact, when the Cubs were up 5-3, I called a friend who hails from Chicago to say that I'm glad the Cubs are leading but I was worried about Wood's pitch count and whether the bullpen would be able to hold a lead or not. And voila, an inning later, Wood got tagged and the bullpen couldn't keep the team close.

Today, it is the Red Sox turn to try to lay down the "curse" and pick up the tickets to the World Series.

Any predictions, oh, great sports guru of Kansas?

A part of me wants to root for the underdog Red Sox but that whole Pedro versus Clemens thing really made me upset with the Sox. Only the Sox could make Clemens a sympathetic figure.

But hope over reason, eh? Sox 6 Yankees 4.

Play ball,

UPDATE: Dear Gentle Readers: if you have an opinion on the Red Sox vs. Yankees, please feel free to post your prediction by clicking on the comment link just below. As of now, the TTC duo appears to be behind the Sox. Kari, your comment on file was a slight fence straddle but I know of your fondness for underdogs so I'll mark you down as marginally rooting for the Red Sox!

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Seen around the net

Hello Ms. K:

With light blogging ahead for me, I'll confine myself to just sharing a few interesting tidbits for your enjoyment without much comment from me. Of course, if something is in your strikezone, go ahead and take a swing.

From reading the LA Times sport's section, I found out about a new web site that honors Walter O'Malley the famed owner who moved the Dodgers out from Brooklyn to Los Angeles.

Another item that caught my eye was mentioned by the bloggers over at Volokh Conspiracy where Volokh reported seeing a Salt Lake Tribune story on a move afoot to amend the Constitution to allow naturalized citizens to be able to run for President. Indeed, if such an amendment were to go through (an event I think highly unlikely) it would open the door for the Arnold to run for POTUS should he have a successful tenure as Governor of California.

One final item from my camera and now on the net here at TTC is this photo. I didn't know you were a restaurant consumable products tycoon?

Take care,

Monday, October 13, 2003

The Handyman' s Secret Weapon

Hi-De-Ho Rene,

"Duct tape is like the force: It has a dark side and a light side and it holds the universe together."

I saw that quote the other day and thought of two things: Your recent post on duality, and my Grandpa Art.

My Dad's father passed away in 1988, but not before a lifetime of devotion to the wonders of silver tape. Grandpa Art had grown up on a farm and spent the first part of his adulthood in agriculture before becoming a high school science teacher in his 40s. Perhaps it was the combination of practical repair experience gained on the farm and a scientist's appreciation of innovation that drew him to duct tape.

Some of the uses we remember fondly: Winterproofing windows, repairing plumbing, reinforcing the swingset, replacing grips on tennis rackets, fixing ladder rungs (!), and, of course, sealing ductwork.

That repair job is probably 30 years old (note the discoloration and wear -- but it still holds a 200-pound man).

Duct tape was invented in World War II by the Johnson & Johnson Co. to better seal ammunition boxes for shipping. It was Army green and was called "duck tape" first, because of the cotton duck that was used to make it and because water ran off its back. It acquired the "duct tape" name and its metallic silver color when postwar homeowners discovered its usefulness.

It used to be a generational thing (my other grandpa has been known to use duct tape to wrap Christmas presents), but duct tape is back in vogue, particularly after certain pronouncements from the Department of Homeland Security. A duct tape chic page is located here.

So, Rene and readers, have you or any of your relatives found other practical, creative or bizarre applications for duct tape?

p.s. I'm pondering a response to your "best tax" question; my position on that has changed over time.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Art in LA


Here is a post for our LA readership.

The art work of Lynn Aldrich is on display at the Carl Berg Gallery on 6018 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA. 90036. The gallery is open 11am - 6pm Tuesday to Saturday.

I've arranged for an opportunity to photograph the exhibit later this week. I'll be working on a photo essay as an exclusive for our dear readers. Thus, blogging will be light while I work on this project.

Be well,

Kari, Kari on the net, which is the fairest tax you ever met?

Hello Ms. K:

You've seen from the inside the budget process in the Federal government and you've seen state and local government as a reporter, my question to you is this: what are the relative merits of each type of taxation?

In California, the Arnold faces some huge problems to close the budget deficit.

I figure this post might serve as a discussion starter for the whole question of what is the best ways to raise revenue.

Here in California, I believe the big revenue generators are income tax (I hear there are several states that don't have it?), sales taxes (to the tune of 8.25%), car registration fees (recently tripled), gasoline taxes and property taxes. There are undoubtedly many other revenue streams which would fall into the realm of user fees (university tuitions, park entry, fishing/hunting licenses, etc.) and other things (fines for speeding and other minor non-jail punishments and so forth, lottery participation, etc.). At the national level, there is always buzz about capital gains taxes. Certainly, with the internet bubble burst, that revenue stream fell and it probably hit California hard since that industry is a big part of my state's boom times.

Each tax has its pros and cons. Since I know of your libertarian leanings which I have some alignment with, I'd be curious to see what you think. I know their general view is that the government that governs best is the one that governs the least. Hence, they would prefer lower taxes as one way to restrain the size and reach of government. However, since some functions of government still exist even among libertarians, what is their view on which method of raising revenues least hinders free markets?

Wonk wannabe,

Saturday, October 11, 2003

LA Scene: Disney Hall

More from the wild minds of architects

(fourth in a series of occasional posts on what's happening in Los Angeles)


A while back we started a discussion on architecture (see archives) on Frank Lloyd Wright (posts of Sept. 5, 7) and Santiago Calatrava (post of Sept. 23).

Right here in Los Angeles, we have Frank Gehry. Of course our "blogparents" had a funny take on the soon to officially open Walt Disney Hall. To see the official web pages check out the short text introduction or the full blown long version.

Below are some photos from my recent visit there for the subscriber open house.

There it is: over $200 million and over a decade in the making.

October 4, 2003 was subscriber open house!

The main entrance.

The entry way on Grand Ave.

From one of the nooks.

Gardens on the, of course, garden level.

The view from my sub scription seats!

Looking up from the Garden level lobby.

It would seem that Gehry's style evokes strong reactions positive and negative. I take it think Gehry is afforded a bit too much worshipfulness from architectural fans and so they go with satire to describe this project.

I'm a pragmatist, I just hope the sound is good! And that the venue helps revitalize LA downtown. Sure would be a shame if the building costs over $200 million to build but eventually falls apart due to disinterest.

What about the aesthet ic va lues here? What do you think? If you were a multibillionaire would you have ponied up a few tens of millions to help get this project off the ground?

Postrel recently discussed the softw are Gehry's firm developed that helps make these kinds of projects possible.

Thus, one may ask what is in the mind of Gehry? Is his attitude like the famed stated motive for climbing Mt. Everest: because it is there? Without doubt doing buildings this way tests the engineering designs and materials fabrication. Is it that Gehry simply wants to push the envelope? Or is there some "meaning" to the curves and waves and sharp points?

In the official web site there are original sketches here and here. They look like nothing more than jumbled lines. Maybe Gehry was trying to "visualize" the music?


UPDATE: "I told her I'd make a flower garden for her," said Gehry. See LA Times for the full story. Gehry has also likened the shapes to sails on a ship. In the end, perhaps it is too simplistic to say the building "looks" like something in particular. I guess, I should just enjoy it!

UPDATE: I heard another person say that the curvy shape was to mimic sheets of music. I guess it is just about anything you want it to be, eh?

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Great Sports Moments

Hey KSU apologist Kari:

The question of the day: share a memory of a exciting moment in sports you saw in person or on tv.

I'll share one that isn't so much a historic moment in sports (I can say I did see on live TV the famed Gibson homer in 1988). But rather, I'll share a moment from a sports rivalry and thus tweak you about your divided loyalties between KSU and KU.

My story of course is a UCLA vs. USC contest. UCLA won that day 20-19 in football. The rivalry is an intense one because the two universities are not only in the same state, they are in the same city. Traditionally, USC has dominated in football and UCLA in basketball. However, there have been periods where the roles were reversed. Currently, USC football is on the rise and both programs are facing hard times in basketball.

My credentials as a UCLA fan: I went there for my undergraduate degree in biochemistry. I almost never root for USC. Probably the only time I have rooted for them is when them winning helped UCLA in some tie-break scenario. Otherwise as the saying goes: my two favorite teams are UCLA and anybody playing USC.

Please note, I have some friends who are USC alums and I'll say here publicly, love you, mean it; but I can't stand your football and basketball team. So are my credentials in order?

Anyway, back to the game. I had in the stratosphere end-zone seats. Most of the game seemingly was played at the other end of the Rose Bowl. As the fourth quarter was winding down, the Bruins held the lead 20-13 when they had to punt. USC started to drive down the field to our end. The fans were screaming like crazy and a feeling of dread hung over us. For Bruin fans there had been too many last minute bungles by the Bruins or heroics by the Trojans leaving Bruin fans in heartbreak hotel. As the clock expired, USC scored the touchdown right in front of us in our endzone making it 20-19.

They opted for the 2-point conversion. One timeout was called and the respective teams huddled around the coaches. Then a second timeout was called. Then finally, the final play of the game with no time on the clock. It was high drama as they got up to the line. The ball is snapped. The Trojan QB drops back and ... SACKED!

BRUINS WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The crowd goes wild.

Go Bruins!


P.S. KSU is 4-2 right now with 7 games to go. My Bruins are 3-2 with 7 games to go. Comparing wins might not be fair since your team has 1 extra game. But let's look at the loss column. How many losses will KSU have at the end of the season? Two, three.... four????? Hmmm...... If I'm really optimistic, my Bruins will go undefeated the rest of the way. I'm not that optimistic! However, I'm thinking my Bruins might hold their own with KSU in the loss column and maybe even edge your team out. What do you think?

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Why I did not end up going to the race

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Oktoberfest geändert. Verstehen Sie?

Hallo-De-Ho Rene,

As promised, and with links to pictures sprinkled into the text below, I’m posting my musings about Oktoberfest, the festival that kicks off Homecoming weekend at my alma mater in western Kansas.

Despite not drinking beer, which to many people is the point of Oktoberfest, I’ve always loved that Friday event because it was the ultimate confluence of the two major cultures of Hays, America: Volga Germans and college students.

Besides love of beer, the two cultures had little directly in common (unless you were a college student who grew up there, in which case you’d also have the distinctive Volga-German accent in common). The booming polka bands of Oktoberfest haven’t been in the Top 40 for a while, and the Schottische does not resemble the dances the young folks do at places like The Home II or The Wild Rose. Somehow, though, for a long day that began with a keg tapping at 10:30 a.m., there was sunny unity.

Not so any more, or at least not as much so. A few years back, many of the local diehards pulled out of Oktoberfest, upset that the old traditions were being crowded out by the growing younger generation. I don’t know the whole story, but as a result there are now two Oktoberfests, one known as the “Genuine German Oktoberfest,” which is a few weeks before the one associated with the university. The Volga-German Society still runs the latter, in association with the university and the Chamber of Commerce, but more than ever now it’s essentially a big Homecoming party.

That’s not to say that there aren’t reminders of the origins: There are fewer dancers now, in part because of the dual events, and in part because the average age of willing dancers has been climbing every year. There are fewer folks dressed in lederhosen, although the president of the Society still sports his signature outfit. There are more college students. And while there is generally less variety of Volga-German cousine available, at least there are plenty of bierocks to choose from. (Mmmmmm. Ground beef, cabbage, and onions, baked inside warm bread pockets. I brought three back frozen for my sister.)

The change was inevitable, but it’s still a little sad. I had a nice time, but somehow, with the concrete dance floor often empty, it just wasn’t the same.


Californians Voting in Historic Recall Election

Mornin' Kari:

Just got back from voting. Polls opened at 7 am and I got there at 7:15 and had to wait about 20 minutes to get my ballot and poke out the chads. This will be the last time the punchcards will be used in LA County!

The line was very long. Some in their business best ready to go to work after voting and others like me who looked like we just rolled out of bed. These are the longest lines I've ever seen since I've been voting in the Westside of Los Angeles. Three possibilities: (1) there was polling place consolidation so we have a larger pool of voters than normal or (2) turnout is going to be high or (3) a combination of both.

As you might guess, the Recall has been the big news item in the local print and electronic media. The blogosphere with a political or California interest have been covering the story like a wet blanket. One great source for new and opinion roundups with a pro-recall perspective is Presto Pundit.

I take it in your part of the world, the locals are only aware of the "fruits and nuts" of California Recall through the national media?

My impression is that the national media has been playing up the circus atmosphere of the elections. The local media here is taking it dead serious and seem to resent the national media's scoffing at what is going on here.

Anyway, don't think I'll be doing Glenn Reynold's Instapundit style hyper-active blogging. However, if interesting tidbits come up during the day, I may update this post.


UPDATE: (3:31 PDT) Turnout so far is running ahead of the 2002 elections. From KFWB news radio is this short report:
As of 1pm 22.09 percent of LA County's registered voters had gone to the polls, according to the county registrar. By comparison, 18.44 had voted by that time November
UPDATE: (3:43 PDT) Oh, I should put out the obligatory punditry and predict the outcome! Recall will pass 56-44. The Arnold gets 46%; Cruz 40%; Tom 10%; Camejo 3% and everybody else 1%. Calblog claims leaked newsies exit polling data is saying its going to be a short night. We shall see!

UPDATE: (5:52 PDT) News leak to Drudge:

UPDATE: (10:40 PDT) Am watching the Arnold give his victory speech! Amazing!! The recall is passing by a wide margin and the Arnold is rolling to a solid victory. Read about it here and here.

UPDATE: (11:00 PDT) Yahoo! News table of vote results. As of 46% of the precincts counted: the recall is passing 54-46; Arnold 49%, Cruz 32%, Tom 13%, Camejo 2%, Huffington 1%.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Ol' Time Dinner and a Movie

Hey Kari,

Thought I'd share with you a movie review and my recipe for beef stew which I prepared for my guests as I hosted an old movie night at my Westside apartment.

First the food!

~2 lbs beef cut up into cubes about 1-2 inches and season with some olive oil, garlic, paprika, black pepper, salt; fry it up in until meat is lightly browned.

Toss in onions chopped up (I used 2 big sweet onions) and fry until the onions are lightly cooked.

Chop up 3 medium tomatoes and add to the mix.
Add in seasonings:
3 T paprika
1 T vinegar
1/2 T marjoram
1/2 T caraway seed
1 can tomato paste
1/2 T salt

Add water so there is enough to allow the whole mix to simmer and stew! I also add a little sugar to tone down the slight tartness from the tomato stuff. And at the very end I throw in a package of frozen peas and carrots. Serve with your favorite carbs: rice, pasta or bread.

For the movie, I went with Laura (1944). Have you ever seen it? It is an Otto Preminger directed effort starring Dana Andrews (as the detective), Gene Tierney (as Laura), Clifton Webb (as Lydecker) and Vincent Price (as Carpenter). Webb clearly stole the show with his performance. I'd say Andrews and Price were tied for second with some great lines and convincingly inhabiting the roles they had. Tierney was probably the weakest performance. But her job was merely to look pretty as Laura and be loved by all the men around her. And so since she was such a knockout in her day, she had no problem doing that.

Nifty little murder mystery with snappy dialog and the Laura theme by David Raksin. One pretty big plot hole at the end but I won't give it away since you or our readers may have not seen it.

Thumbs up. 2.5 stars out of 4.

Look forward to hearing about NASCAR and bratwurst and sauerkraut and other cultural things from your weekend.


P.s. Love those CUBBIES and I'm impressed by the FISH!

Friday, October 03, 2003

Tell me about Elia Kazan's movies

Guten Tag Fraulein Kari:

Have a wonderful weekend of cultural experiences! Look forward to your blogging about them.

A quick note to send you and our readers off for the weekend. Earlier this week, controversial film maker Elia Kazan died. I read about it in the LA Times and in the NY Times here and here.

I'm not nearly the film buff you and some of our readers are. From the articles, I now know a little bit more about his life and times. From the filmography in those reports, I find I have only seen one of his films, East of Eden. I'd be curious to get your views on his films.

I found East of Eden riveting. James Dean as the troubled son evoked a mixture of sympathy and fear in me as I watched his performance. The story line is a set piece straight out of the Biblical Cain and Abel story with a few twists thrown in. I'd have to say I'd recommend the film to any men's group that is taking seriously the responsibilities of fatherhood and wrestling with having grown up with dysfunctional families.

Tangentially, I'd like to pose a variant of the 5 movies in a bag game. This time, I'm looking for movies driven by male characters and dialog. It is cliche to bash "chick flicks." Many are probably quite forgettable. I generally avoid them. But I did like Spitfire Grill. But back on point: can you name five good movies centered around strong male characters and dialog but are not in the action buddy movie genre embodied by the Lethal Weapon series.

To be honest, I don't think I can think of five. Perhaps you or our movie-phile readers could.

Gute Reise!


Thursday, October 02, 2003

Weekend preview

Hi-De-Ho Rene,

I'll be attending two very different but interesting cultural phenomena this weekend and will come back with thoughts and, with luck, some good photos of the sights to post here.

Event No. 1 is Oktoberfest in Hays, Kansas (or, for those of you in the know, Hays, America). Hays is the site of my college alma mater and the seat of Ellis County, a largely German-Russian county once known for the highest per capita consumption of cereal malt beverages in the country. College students + old Germans + beer + bierocks + polka bands = Oktoberfest.

Event No. 2 is a Winston Cup race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. I'll be working but will be able to soak in some of the atmosphere. It will be my first NASCAR event, so I don't know entirely what to expect, but I am told NASCAR has an interesting, evolving culture of its own.