Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Local Politics: Not So Distant Thunder

Last one, then a wrap-up.

One of the final matches is one I cannot vote on, but which affects my neighborhood one block north. Because there is the dividing line between the part of Benson Hill that may be swallowed by Renton, and my chunk, which is supposedly to be injested by Kent (I suppose by osmosis - I haven't heard a peep about it).

The Renton Annexation is no small potatoes. Previously an attempt to make this area, including Fairwood in the east, an independent community failed at the polls. And with this addition, Renton will be a larger city than Bellevue, though not a taller one.

And Renton has been expanding like mad. I joke about the sprawling IKEA that dominates the southern office parks of the city, and express worry about the large tank farm for the Olympic Pipeline that is only a few blocks away, but it has been on an expansion run. The Federal Reserve, King County elections, and even the Seattle Seahawks practice field are all relocating. Add a sprawling attempt at Kent Commons and it is trying to shoulder its way out of its status as the Rodney Dangerfield of the Pacific Northwest.

And the full court press has been on everywhere - three varieties of lawn sides and a web site, the ominously titled SoonerNotLater.com. Meanwhile, the opponents of annexation have been visibly few and far between. So how can this fail?

Inertia. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest. As the Fairwood folks found out, it takes a lot to move people out of the traditional routines, and King County swearing that they cannot adequately serve these outflung no-longer-rural communities means little as long as the recycling disappears from the curbside at the proper time. Plus, there's the added fact that Renton already has its Highlands, suffering from what may be called benign neglect - is Renton just after them for their tax base?

Ah yes, and while swearing that taxes should come down for the people making the King County/Renton switch, not too long ago Renton was banging the drum loudly to bring the Oklahoma Sonics to town, building them a very expensive arena in the process.

And Renton itself is in a very nasty mayoral fight between an incumbent and a newspaper owner, which is providing thrills, chills, and concern for those who are looking to these guys for leadership.

So despite the huge press to annex now (before its too late), the measure still has a ways to go. I wish it luck, and am wondering when Kent will get off the dime and start working towards absorbing our neighborhood - are they just waiting until EVERY old farm out here is buried under townhouses?

More later,

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Local Politics: Land of Confusion

We're down to the final ones now, and it doesn't get any less murky.

So how can you make a relatively quiet position such as King County Assessor more intriguing? How about running two candidates with similar names, such that the voter's guide has to identify which is the incumbent? That incumbent would be Scott Noble, who has a pretty good rep for transparency and fairness (appeals are down to a 10-year low, which surprises me, given the ever-rising housing costs). His opponent is Jim Nobles, who wants to see transparency and fairness in the assessors office, though is a little light on details. Oh, and to make matters worse, there is a PHIL Noble running for Bellevue City council. Talk about flooding the field.

Go for Scott Noble - No "s", but bring along a reminder as to which one that is.

The two Public Hospital District #1 positions, for the region dominated by Valley Medical Center down the hill, should be a snoozer. Yet such is not to be, because of the LAST election, with a proposition increasing the Hospital's area up into Maple Valley. That proposition went down by an embarrassing 94% No vote, but what was interesting (as in illegal) was that Hospital spent tax money for pollsters, focus groups,and push polls. The state went after them, investigating the largest misuse of taxpayer funds in history, and resulting in a record fine.

So, throw the bums out, right? This would be bums in the general sense, meaning incumbents Carole Anderson and Gary Knowles, who have yet in any of my digging come up with a smoking gun as far as their participation, but whom at the very least should have been watching. The problem is that their opponents, Anthony Hemstad and Sue Bowman are running on the indignation of a 2005 election which raised the VMC chunk of property taxes by 600%. No, your property taxes didn't go up 600% (which was the message we got on the answering machine), just the chunk that went to Valley Medical Center (which is more obvious from the Voter's Pamphlet, but you still have to look). I'm not onboard with scaremongering, and this felt like a big chunk of it. Oh, and Hemstad's website purports the usual "endorsed by Republicans and Democrats" line, which is campaign talk for "mostly Republicans", like Slade Gorton, Dan Evans, Sam Reed, and the usual smattering of Dunns and Roaches.

So, what to recommend? I'm splitting the ticket. I'll stay with incumbent Carole Anderson and go for replacing Gary Knowles with Sue Bowman.

And guys? Regardless of who wins, you MIGHT want to get a new CEO over at VMC.

More later,

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Local Politics: Rolling for Initiatives

Man, this just keeps going, doesn't it? For a supposed off-year, we have a passel of Initiatives, Referendums, Proposals, and Joint Resolutions. Let's tick them off as quickly as possible, though this is probably the best recommendation for mail-in ballots (as Shelly in Seattle makes clear - you really can't make these decisions while you're in the voting booth, without Internet access).

Initiative 960 is this year's Eyeman Initiative, so named for the initiative maven that regularly launches such proposals onto the ballot. Usually this is an law that sounds good from a "stick-it-to-the-man" proposal but usually ends up sticking it to ourselves. This one required a supermajority (2/3rds) to increase any tax along with advisory votes on all taxes. I think that Groucho may have said it - "Just what the finely-oiled gears of government needs - six feet of sand". Vote NO.

Referendum 67 (R-67) is the "Yeah, a little consumer protection would be a good thing" Referendum, and we covered it earlier. Vote YES to keep this gem on the books.

Engrossed Substitute Senate Joint Resolution 8206 (ESSJR 8206) This creates a "rainy day fund" (which is generally a good thing) which can only be accessed by a supermajority (there's that word again) and further modified by the initiative process (which is, as we know above reproach). Color me suspicious on all this as I Vote NO.

Senate Joint Resolution 8212 (SJR 8212): Allow state contracts for prison labor. Now this one passed the Senate unanimously, and the House also so, but, again, I'll be a nay-sayer. Turning prisons into profit centers reminds me of that Larry Niven story where organs could only be harvested from convicted felons, and soon enough traffic violations carried the death sentence. Vote NO, but only because they asked.

Engrossed House Joint Resolution 4204 (EHJR 4204): Simple majority for school district levies. This one REMOVES the supermajority required to raise funds for schools. It is odd that a candidate that wins by 1% has a mandate, while a school funding proposal that wins by 20% of the vote is a failure. Vote YES.

Substitute House Joint Resolution 4215 (SHJR-4215 - you get the feeling they name these with a table out of one of my old D&D books?) Allows the local universities to play the stock market. Yeah, that trick always works. Still, I'm torn on this on. Haven't made up my mind, but leaning towards NO.

King County Initiative 25 proposes putting an amendment on the ballot NEXT year, which, if it passes, will elect a new County Director of Elections in February of 2009. Because we need more elections. Actually, this is the remnants of the last governor's race, where there was widespread corruption. Actually, there wasn't, but that fervent belief is what is firing this Initiative. There were errors made here as well as in a bunch of counties that DO elect their Directors of Elections, but that's not important. What is important is that we create yet another non-partisan position that we can put people into based on their ability to raise money over their ability to do the job. The Seattle Times gets it right - Vote NO.

King County Proposition No. 1, which is DIFFERENT than Sound Transit and RTID Proposition No. 1, which is to raise property taxes for the Medic One emergency medical services for six years. Yeah, I'm good with it. But didn't we elect PEOPLE to make these decisions, so they don't have to run to us every five minutes? Vote YES.

ST/RTID Proposition 1 was also covered earlier. I am open to other options here. Instead of a balanced approach to the transportation, how about if we just seal off the passes and start spraying Californians at the border to keep them from breeding? The other alternative is to Vote YES.

And someday I'll figure out the differences between Propositions, Referendums, Joint Referendums, and Engrossed Joint Referendums. Until there, stay tuned.

More later,

Friday, October 26, 2007

Local Politics: Ports in a Storm

So we're back, with another report of distant thunder - this time involving an election I CAN vote in, but election shenanigans I have only second-hand.

The Port of Seattle has a great deal of power (SeaTac, the Ports, cargo contracts, a lot of land) pays badly, and could stand a bit more daylight, so it is no real surprise that there is a lot of skullduggery going on in its halls. And of late, it has been rocked with scandal (a golden parachute for the previous port director) and controversy (Yuletide decorations at the airport). So it is time to throw the dastards out, right? Well, yes and no.

For Position 2 we have incumbent Bob Edwards up against reformer Gael Tarleton. Mr. Edwards is near the epicenter of the recent platinum retirement deal, and we would be good to return him to private life. But the challenger has some suitable baggage of her own, in the form of long employment at and continued support from he folk at, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC- but it has one of those names that just slides off the memory. If I was running AIM or Hydra, I'd look at a joint venture with these guys).

What is SAIC? It is one of those large corporations that provides the bodies to do the work that government no longer wants to do, putting it in the same category as Haliburton and Blackwater. So there is a legitimate question going on here, and while Ms. Tarleton vows to recuse herself from any SAIC business with the port, and SAIC doesn't have any deals with the port (though it did earlier in the decade)the company does have a nasty image, as shown in this Vanity Fair article.

So the Edwards camp takes that nugget of negativity and runs with it - running a mailer in the more liberal areas (didn't get it here in the farmland, of course), screaming "Port Security from the company who brought you the Iraq War!" and a big picture of Bush. Painting Ms. Tarleton as a crony of our horribly unpopular administration. Now Edwards would be considered the conservative and Republican candidate for the position (looking at his contributors and supporters, it is a sea of red), so attacking the President shows chutzpah beyond all measure, and confirms the fact that he will pull any amount of wool over the voters' eyes to keep his gig.

Now, scrape away all the screaming, and there is a concern here, which kept me away form Tarleton in the primary. But given a choice between a potential scoundrel and one who has already proved himself in that department, I'm going to go with the new kid. Vote for Gael Tarleton, remember your reservations, and keep an eye on her afterwards.

For Position 5, another incumbent Alec Fisken, and another challenger, Bill Bryant. Throw the incumbent out, right? Wrong. Fisken is the reformer in this case, and has been facing an uphill battle against the powers that be. Bryant's supported by the money, though you wouldn't know it from the banner he running under (always check who is doing the supporting for these "non-partisan" posts). The Seattle Times in particular was disingenuous (at best), wrapping itself in reform banners while declaring Fisken a "loner" on the board. Well, let's keep him, then add more reformers so he won't be alone. Vote Alec Fisken.

More later (and I am sad to say that there IS more),

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Commercial Break

So breaking in on all this mind-numbing local politics, I want to point out that my fire-beleaguered colleague, Stan!, has created a new, hilariously gross T-shirt concept, just in time for Halloween. It takes the I (Heart) Blank concept to a new level:

Heart
Check it out here.

We now return with our mind-numbing local politics.

More later,

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Local Politics: Nonsurance

So, here's the story: Washington State is one of only 6 states without punitive damage laws. Our lawmakers, in one of those acts they should be commended for, put into place a law that makes insurance companies more responsible for denying legitimate claims, with the punishment being increased damages. The idea is, with a bit more of a threat behind it, the insurance companies will think twice (or do more homework) before denying a claim.

The insurance industry, having failed to strangle this bit of consumer protection in its crib, ponied up a bunch of cash and gets the law as a referendum on the ballot. Then it drops about $10 Mill (so far) for a lot of really bad commercials trying to convince the voting public that this is REALLY about greedy lawyers. And should this law go on the books, then the insurance companies will just raise their rates. So there.

So I guess my first question is, if Washington State is one of the few states that DOESN'T have punitive damage laws, and those laws are a cause of higher rates, then Washington State should have among the LOWEST insurance rates in the country, right? But for some odd reason, I don't see the insurance industry making that claim. I don't know why they wouldn't point that out if it was the case.

So most of these ads are trying to frame the argument as "insurance companies versus evil, greedy trial lawyers". Unfortunately the referendum is really "insurance companies, do the damn job we pay you for". No one likes to lawyer up, and most of the clients don't have lawyers when things start to turn messy (the insurance companies, on the other hand, do).

Seriously, this places a small cudgel above the insurance industry's head, only because there is enough evidence to show that the companies, in the interest of keeping their money, will often weasel out of their agreements and as a result help create the very suffering that insurance is supposed to relieve. The ease at which "insurance company horror stories" show up is pretty amazing. Not only do you hear them in place like the comments section from this Robert Mak piece, but also from the insurance companies' own commercials. Just think about it, guys - you run ads that say that other insurance companies are a bunch of soulless bean-counting crooks, and you wonder why people get the idea that insurance companies in general may not looking out for our best interests.

And let me go back to that entire "Raise our rates" threat - does this mean that if we vote this down, our rates will NOT go up in the next five years? Anyone in the insurance industry want to make THAT promise? Didn't think so.

I think that the great bulk of us unwashed-but-still-insured masses have pretty good service from their insurance companies, but the added protection that this law will add would be a generally good thing. The Greedy Lawyer angle is a straw man, a distraction for the matters at hand,a boogie man created to scare you out of the services you pay for.

And just in time for Halloween, too. In the meantime, ignore the scare tactics and vote YES on R-68

More later,

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Local Politics: False Colors

I hold in my hand an interesting document, a mailer from the Friends of Dan Satterberg, who is up for election for King County Prosecutor. Mr. Satterberg currently has the gig, having been the number two guy with the passing of previous KC Prosecutor Norm Maleng. Like the late Mr. Maleng, he's GOP, but you can't really tell it from the mailer.

"Democrats for Satterberg" is the heading on the mailer is the big title across the top, with a handful of local law-n-order Dems saying nice things about him. And it touts the fact that Satterberg has an Outstanding Municiple League rating (so does his opponent, Bill Sherman, but you wouldn't REALLY expect them to mention that).

So it seems like from the mailer Satteberg is the Dem candidate in this race. Actually, he is the Republican, but the letters GOP only appears in a flyspeck nod further down the page with an odd line break to push it away from the rest of the "Friends of Dan Satterberg" name of the organization. This is not a typo. Mr. Satterberg's organization has been running away from his political heritage, trying to minimalize the Republican tag as much as possible.

Don't think so? The lawn signs for Satterberg has the "R" so small you'd think it was a registered trademark (It also uses the weasel word "retain" instead of "re-elect", trying to smooth over the idea that he wasn't elected in the first place). And his side has been touting that it is non-political, as if being a Republican showed up like a bad case of gas one morning. Indeed, the worst charge that the GOP can lay on Mr. Sherman seems to be that he admits to being a Democrat and is (shudder) running for a partisan office in a partisan fashion.

Mind you, both candidates have Outstanding Muni ratings and great experience (Satterberg in the Prosecutor's Office, Sherman in court as a real-life prosecutor), so this contest is, at its base, a choice between good options. But the King County Prosecutor is not a "non-partisan" office, and for the candidate to pretend that it is, while engaging in fund-raising for his party (and for Jane Hague, in the beleaguered 6th) while condemning your opponent for having a political party, is a just a bit dissembling.

Go with Bill Sherman for Prosecutor.

More later,

Monday, October 22, 2007

Local Politics: Road Work

So, the mark of a good compromise is that it cheeses off all sides equally. For that reason, Sound Transit/RTID Proposition 1, also called the Roads and Sound Transit Initiative, is a good compromise, because it is taking (and shrugging off) hits from all sides. The Proposal in short says we want to raise a lot of money to build more light rail and road improvements. You want 'em? Pony up.

Actually, it is a pretty crafty bit of legislation, in that it lays out in detail a lot of its plan, which is usually the first thing that everyone attacks a transit plan for. It also neatly divides its most vocal opponents into two mutually antagonistic groups. Big D Developers hate the plan because it gives a LOT of money to Mass Transit, in the form of expanding the Light Rail system. Enviros like the Sierra Club hate the plan because its gives a LOT of money to congestion-fueling highways which will fill up immediately. Each is convinced that, if they shoot down the plan, THEIR part of it will pass easily next year (Here's the story on that: It wont' happen).

But that division of foes leaves a lot of people in the center, who are good with the ideas presented, can live with the price being paid, and willing to go forward. I'm in that category.

No, I'm a little more passionate than that. I think we need MORE Roads and MORE mass transit. Both, together, working in a coherent plan. Each one alone won't do the job. Go to this site, between 6 and 10 AM or between 3 and 7 PM, and look at the lower right-hand corner, between Bellevue and Renton along 405. That's my commute. You've got congestion - either a staccato of red and black blockages or a solid line, dark as a shrimp's intestine. Even when the rest of the system is green this chunk of road is still cycling from yellow to red to outer space vacuum. So I'm good for this BECAUSE of both the improved mass transit (which would be nice to come down my way sometime) as well as increasing road capacity.

Now, being even handed here, there IS another option here to reduce congestion that does not need any more construction, and we won't have to raise any taxes.

A recession. A nice, long one. No, I'm serious - when I started working up in Bellevue with the WizKids, the traffic was light(er), and heck, even small game companies could get good office space in Bellevue. So if we don't want to pay for better transportation options, a recession will solve the problem for us. Fewer jobs mean fewer commuters which mean fewer vehicles on the road. Problem solved!

In the meantime, we are already at the straining point, with these repairs still years away. Now is the time - vote YES on Proposition One.

More later,

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Local Politics: Distant Thunder

It has been a very strange political season here on Grubb Street. There are no immediate local-local races, no lawn signs at every intersection, no push polls and telemarketed messages. Even the farmer at the end of the road, who can be trusted to hang out a huge poster for whatever GOP candidate is going to going down in flames, is strangely quiet. To paraphrase the Book of Matthew, I hear of war and the rumors of war.

So I've been slow to react, even when the Voter's Pamphlet showed up a few weeks back, and now the absentee ballots are already going out and so any advice given may be after the fact. And there are a couple issues I need to address. But despite the distance I feel from this year's election, there is more than enough weirdness going on, so you might as well hang about as I say nice things about Republicans, cheese of the Sierra Club, reveal suspicions about reformers, and talk about candidates flying under false flags.

Me saying nice things about Republicans? Surely that's a sign of the End Times if there ever was one.

Let me start out on that one, with a race that I can't even vote in - King County Council District 6. I don't live there, but the Monkey King does and he's been feeding me the fliers from his neck of the woods.

King County Council is often pretty quiet, and even moreso this year in the 6th (Bellevue and the surroundings) where the GOP incumbent (Jane Hague) didn't even get a regular Democrat opponent. The local Dems missed the signing date, and her opponent ended up a long-time candidate, Richard Pope, who switched parties for the run. And let me digress to point out that the same party bosses that get their knickers in a twist when the voters are allowed to vote for whoever they want in the primaries are oddly quiet when it comes to people jumping party lines to RUN, but that's another matter.

Richard Pope has run for various offices and gets the tag "Perennial Candidate" hung around his neck. He also has gotten zero support from the state Dems, nor any support from former GOP mates. He has no chance. That's been the conventional wisdom. But it ignores the fact that one thing that Mr. Pope does well is research - he is comfortable with official records and campaign finance law to a wonky degree, and plays to that strength. One reason that Mr. Pope has little official support is that over the years he has afflicted the comfortable on both sides of the political fence, Dems and Gops alike, with an ability to excavate and illuminate the darker corners of the political spectrum.

But still, the feeling was that incumbent Hague could ignore challenger Pope, who had negative baggage, a worn shelf date, and no cash. Then Ms. Hague was pulled over for driving drunk. This was followed by several changes in story (similar to what happened to Mike McGavick back a few years ago). Then everyone was reminded that Ms. Hague had ANOTHER accident a few years back that also did not reflect well on her (she hit a bus). Then there were some irregularities in her campaign finances. Which reminded everyone that for a few years back, there were OTHER irregularities in her finances. And then there was the fact that she claimed to have graduated college when in fact she did not. Each of these is a faux pas, a problem for a candidate, and when taken together, suddenly casts the candidate in a different light.

Then a friendly pro tem judge pushed the date of the Hague's trial for the arrest back past the election. Then it turns out that the original judge was pulled to put in this more pliable judge, who has his OWN baggage in the matter, who then had to be pulled as well. At this point the stench just settled on the entire process.

And at each stage of revelation, the information was unearthed and presented by Mr. Pope, who pulled off a marvelous bit of political stagecraft. Lacking funds, he suddenly was running his campaign on Page 1 of the Local section of the Seattle Times. More questions come up. More questions don't get answered immediately and directly, and suddenly there is a race.

And that's strange and a little sad, because Ms. Hague has an Outstanding rating from the Municipal league, and is a Big D (as in Development) Republican, pushing hard to get the 405 expansion on the Roads and Transit Initiative. Yet with the weirdness of a political comedy, she suddenly finds herself on the defensive, because any actions promotes the underfinanced Pope (Muni League - "Not Qualified") even more.

So finally the GOP struck back, with a web site unearthing all of Pope's baggage in hopes of turning the tide (since promoting the virtues of their own candidate really wasn't working). And in a first as far as I know, the Seattle Times ran a story on THAT, addressing the charges (which may be a first time for that). The general analysis was that there was enough true about Pope's past to give concern, but there were also some stretchers and a fearmongering tone in it all (and all the "articles" are by "TOP STAFF REPORTERS" (TOP = Truth on Pope - heh)).

And I got some of the fliers as well (all from Hague's side - remember, Pope has no money). The positive version extols how even Democrats like Hague (or at least prefer her), while the negative ones roll out the "Real Richard Pope" - you know the drill - photo badly digitalized, screaming headers, bright font color to make you scared. A by the numbers hit piece from the political Photoshop.

Which is kind of a pity. Yes, Ms. Hague has a lot running against her, but just because one candidate has a lot of personal negative marks does not in and of itself mean that the opposing candidate is better. I don't have a vote here, but I recommend voting for Jane Hague this time out, then getting a better candidate (Democrat, Republican, or both) for the next election.

Though it is kinda fun watching to Republicans beat each other up.

More later,

Friday, October 19, 2007

Windstorm

The first fall/winter windstorm hit yesterday, and compared to most, it was not too bad. We didn't have any major deadfalls in the lawn, but a transformer blew at nearby Meeker school, and power was out in Fairwood for a good while.

Here's a map of the outages, courtesy of Northwest Progressive Institute.

Outage

More later,

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Post One Thousand

According to the little counter on my posting page, this is the 1000th post on this blog.

Shocking, really. One thousand posts, ranging from rants to memes to snark to desperate attempts to explain how things work and how things SHOULD work. Stuff that wanders all over the place. Collectible quarters. Local politics. Theater. You know, stuff.

And in the four years since the inception of this little operation, I've seen the entire forest of the blogosphere shoot up around me. Bloggers have gone from little hobbyists of the old HAM radio set to movers and shakers. Bloggers are quasi-journalists with apparently some (but not all) first amendment protections. Huge political and promotional blogs have grown up, dominating the landscape. Newspapers no longer are the first draft of history - rather it is someone on the scene with a cell phone and internet access. And people are actually making money on these things.

Not me, though. In fact, whenever I read one of those "Things you can do to make your blog more popular" articles, I inevitably find that I do NONE of these things. No multiple posters. No comment section (I rarely find any that are not either too flattering or overrun with trolls - you want to contact me, the address is in the upper right of this page). No cross-promotions. No impressive graphics. No on-line ads.

Instead its just a small blog, part of the "long tail" of the blogosphere. Even the tech has moved on, with the personality of blogs being replaced by the myspaces and facebooks, which thrive on their visual components as opposed to honestly having to write. So I go easily from leading edge to backwater.

And I'm pretty cool with it. In fact, I have been thinking about all the things that I still mean to be posting, even after a thousand times up at bat. I want to write more about imaginary states like Jefferson and the UP. I want to dig into the big pile of books I've been meaning to talk about. I want to talk about comics a bit more. I want to visit the various Fantasy Worlds I've been a part of over the years. I still have season tickets at the REP. And I want to finish up the collectible quarters.

But for the moment, I want to write about local politics, since we have an election coming up.

More on that, as I always say, later.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Play: Killer Jokes

Murderers by Jeffrey Hatcher, Directed by Steven Dietz, Seattle Rep, through 4 November.

One thing that I love about season tickets is the surprises. I mean the plays you go to without knowing a whole lot about, except that you have tickets. If your equivalent of the Lovely Bride came up to you and said "Honey, it's a nice day out. Let's go see a play set in a retirement village called "Murderers". Oh, and its not a play, but rather three monologues". You might pass.

And you would miss a very funny and sweet set of performances in the process.

It's monologues, which I believe is Latin for "No one back-talks you". But over the course of the three stories there are a lot of characters, as each of the murderers in the Riddle Key retirement community (they show up at the start like the lineup for "To Tell the Truth") gets their say.

And they are very funny. Mark Anders pkays a middle-aged man caught in a horrible tax dodge that results in him marrying his potential mother-in-law. Joan Port Hollander nails that retired woman of a certain age facing down a newly-arrived rival. And Sarah Rudinoff shines as Minka Lupino, an avenging vigilante angel whom you end up rooting for. Their performances make the words come alive, and while most monologists stay relatively inert, they have to work about blocking and emoting and spinning entire conversations on their own from thin air. There are a couple stumbles over the course of the monologues, as the actors seem to seek for the right words, but they all pull it off.

And those words - it turns out that playwright Hatcher has crossed my path before, as the non-speaking half of the team in "Tuesdays with Morrie", as well as "Work Song", the bioplay on Frank Lloyd Wright. Oh, and he's wrote a Columbo episode in the 90s. The thing is, he writes older people very well, and without heavier matters of importance weighing upon him, he sails and loops as easily and gracefully as a plywood glider. His word-choice for the second monologue, and the only one fully in the voice of a retiree, uses words that I grew up hearing my mom use - words like "Irks" and "Persnickity", and Ms. Hollander delivers them with the perfect cadence of one used to the words. There are some references that feel a little out of date for even retirees in the modern era, but they move smoothly through.

And I would be lax to note that, according the Lovely Bride/Tax Preparer, Hatcher got the nature of the capital gains tax laws wrong (There is something called an "Angel of Death step-up"), but since that drives much of the action in the first bit, it is a small quibble. One of the playgoers as leaving said how he (a callow youth) thought Ander's monologue was the best, I preferered Rudinoff's pure detective-novel nerdity that just shines through her performance.

OK, compared to the Bard in the next theater over, this is a lightweight, but its a charming little lightweight and perfect counterbalance for the heaviness found in even a Shakespeare comedy. A good bit of fun with murder.

More later,

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Killed Ourselves a Bar

Well, my writer's group has apparently slain another bar. Actually, if you count our previous incarnation as a mere gathering of drunks, this is the second time we've slain the same bar.

As said mere gathering of rummies, we were present for the death of the Cedar River Brewing Company, in Renton. Fellow Alliterate Frabjous Dave and myself got ourselves kicked out of that bar (I know, you're shocked by this news) for the crime of changing tables. The place went taps-up no less than a month later.

Then, for the longest time, the Allits West Coast met at the Big Time Pizza in Bellevue, a respectable joint with good food. Then one evening we arrived to find the doors closed, the lights off, and the kitchen partially disassembled in the main room. I'm on a mailing list for it ever comes back, the the odds are not good.

So we drifted for a bit, and came to rest back at the location of the old Cedar, under new management (It was also called the Giant's Causeway for a while, but I'm not sure if we were responsible for THAT one going away). Anyway, the new/old bar was a bit empty on a Monday Night, but that's one of the good things a writer's group looks for. But last night we arrived to find the doors padlocked from the outside and a pile of free giveaways that look like no one has been their for a week.

We thought it might be closed for the holiday, but we had never heard of a bar being closed on Columbus Day before, so with tears in our eyes, we heading down the street to the Whistlestop (which was another old WotC bar, but one that has since relocated - so we hadn't killed it, only winged it).

Now mind you, your typical local bar is not going to grow fat on the Alliterates business. We're a once-a-month group of insufficient alcoholics that order dinner with our booze and ask for separate checks. And our preference for quiet bars and restaurants sort of draws up to the weak and struggling.

But I'm a bit jealous of our midwestern brethren, who have been in the same general location for more than a decade, at the corner table in the bar (though come to think of it, we killed a full restaurant out there - showed up one evening to discover that the owner had absconded with the receipts and left everyone (staff, investors and customers) in the lurch).

Maybe it IS something about writers' groups.

More later.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Shoes

Not what I intended to post on, but life is like that sometimes.

A co-worker (male) comes in and mentions about how he bought four pairs of shoes this past weekend. Much discussion about why anyone needs four pairs of shoes. Another co-worker (female) talks about the uncountable number of shoes she had, while one of the younger (male) designers says he has one set of shoes.

So this is going in a gender-determined direction. I was going to say I have only one pair of shoes, but I quickly realized that this was wrong. I have:

My black cheap velcro loafers that I usually wear in rainy winters.
My grey and red sandals that I wear in non-rainy summers.
My old black cheap velcro loafers that I wear for lawnwork.
My hiking boots (ankle support)
My clamming waders (half-way up the calf)
My hot tub flip-flops
My Tai Chi practice showes
My dress brown loafers
My black dance shoes (A little tight)
My fuffy bear-claw slippers

That's ten pairs, all of which I have worn in the past year (I also have some white bucks, but the less said about those, the better, and they don't even fit anymore). So much for gender-specific determinations of footwear.

More later,

Friday, October 05, 2007

Kobolds!

So the second issue of Wolfgang Baur's Kobold Quarterly is up, and yours truly has a small article in it, on using awards of nobility to torture your players. Said article came about from a discussion over beers with Master Baur over something he said in issue #1. Go enjoy.

More later,

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Demise of Blog-Lebo

Well, this one makes me a little sad.

About a year and half ago, I found Blog-Lebo, which was nothing more than a little blog based out of my home town, Mt. Lebanon, an upper middle class suburb of Pittsburgh, PA. Now there are Pittsburgh blogs, but it was the first one that I found that talked about Mt. Lebanon, and the stuff that Mt. Lebanon talks about, like walker safety and local restaurants and deer culls. It would get into controversy at the level of the suitability of corking fees. And it did a great series on the hidden Mt. Lebanon, those things which made Lebo Lebo and held it together as a community (short form - faith, kids, dogs). It hit the nail on the head more often than not, and linked in interesting stories (including a discussion that subdivides Mt. Lebanon by the personality of its school districts, which always made sense to me, but then I grew up there).

Anyway, Blog-Lebo is no more, in part because of some other Lebo tendencies - property and priviledge. They reported on a public walkway being closed by the Lebo native who may/may not control the property in question. Said native has relations with high-priced local law firm. Law firm sends bigfoot letter to bloggers. Blog-Lebo shuts down. The details are here

And that's a pity, since Blog-Lebo was the Internet done right. Non-sensational, supportive, and extremely local. Better than the rah-rah community papers who toe the official line and rely on local businesses for their upkeep. Bloggers Mike Madison, Joe Polk, and Jefferson Provost were incredibly supportive of the community, but as a community, and felt like the first breath of fresh air since they built the Kaufmann's (now the Galleria) where Gilkeson met Washington Road. Accessible, and communicating the nature of being a Mt. Lebanonite even to those of us on the other side of the country.

Alas, it is no more. The writers are moving under the larger Pittsblog which will deal with larger issues and thicker skins. And more's the pity. Usually you only hear about the 'burbs when something goes horribly, horribly wrong. Their day-to-day coverage was a good gathering for natives and expats, and extended the sense of community.

But its all fun and games until someone calls out the lawyers.

So, like I said, this makes me a little sad.

More later,

UPDATE:Upon further consideration, They're back! (though no more anonymous commenting, which I think is OK).

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

DOW Breaks 14000! (Again)

Never mind the housing market, the lack of consumer confidence, the fact gas is edging back up to three bucks a hit, or that the US Dollar has sunk past the Canadian Dollar (The "Loonie") and is closing in on the Australian Dollar (The "Fosters"). There is irrational exuberance in the air.

Actually, this good feeling is the result of the Federal Reserve giving the stock market a cookie (a rate cut) and that they are therefore looking for another cookie (another rate cut). Mind you, the markets tossed a financial tantrum a couple months ago and threatened to sink the entire operation UNTIL they got a cookie. Yes, I think of the stock market as daycare, but without the adult supervision.

Of course, lowering interest rates funds inflation. But I'm sure that all those consumers and lending institutions that put themselves out on a financial limb with ARMs and bundled mortgages will be MUCH more careful now with their investments from here on (yeah, right).

More later,

Monday, October 01, 2007

Frye'd

So this weekend I got the chance to drop in at my favorite museum in Seattle - The Frye Art Museum on First Hill (704 Terry Avenue, a block west of Boren). The Frye is an oddball, eclectic showcase, based on the collection of Charles and Emma Frye.

The Fryes made their money in meat - meatpacking, to be exact. Their main processing plant was near the present site of Qwest Field, and Charles benefited from outfitting the Klondike gold rush. Charles and Emma also invested in art, mostly German, mostly 18th and 19th Century. When Frye passed on, he directed that the collection go to a museum, BUT that it be shown for free. No local museums would take on that offer, so we ended up with the Frye as an independent, free museum, and one of Seattle's best-kept secrets.

The Frye is a strange little jewel box that combines old styles and new, old curatorial presentations and modern installations. The Frye collection itself occupies three good-sized rooms in the middle, and is shown in the Salon style - paintings floor to ceiling. This was the way art was shown back in the day, before the modern museum tendency of large amounts of neutral whitespace surrounding each piece, demanding consideration and declaring importance of each piece. Instead we have an art avalanche, the equivalent of facing a bank of video screens, except we are looking at oils and enamels instead of pixels.

But they play games with curatorial presentation as well. For a while, they were removing paintings at seeming-random, leaving holes in the wall, which makes you pay attention to the remainder. And most recently, they have devoted a room to a single painting, Sin. The artist's original thoughts for the piece was for it to be part of a larger "altar", so the museum installed a modern "altar" and hung the painting high up within it, changing the relationship between man and art. Oh, and they eschewed the neutral museum-white walls for a deep, somber green that brings out the work.

But as a result of the museum's small size (the original collection takes up maybe half the space), the rotating rooms explode with a variety of different styles, subjects and interests. In the past, I've seen excellent exhibits for French art nouveu artist Mucha, western watercolors, and the holocaust presented with lego blocks. Currently, they have a collection of hyper-realistic works by Patricia Piccinini dealing with man's relationship with endangered species. To do this, she invents a number of imaginary species as a basis for her work, ranging from face-hugging opossums to trilobite-like creatures made out of motorcycle seats.

The other large rotating exhibit is the art of local artist David C. Kane, Cubist works that evoke the fifties (one, Cornfield Rocket, could be the cover of a Ray Bradbury novel). But both exhibits are at odds with the more traditional art so close at hand, and that brings an interesting dynamic to the museum - it feels more alive, more engaged, and more intimate than the more traditional venues.

The Frye is the art museum that I go to when I have a spare couple hours and just need some down time. Yeah, I always kick into the contribution kitty, but it is a free museum, and well worth exploring if you haven't been.

More later,