Friday, October 28, 2011

DOW Breaks 12,000!

Yes, I am still on the far side of the world (or rather, all y'all are the ones on the far side of the world), but I am still paying attention, and note with my clockwork precision of another milestone in the Fantasy League known as the Dow Jones.

Now the official economic news is filled with how this is tied in better economic forecasts for the states, or the settling of the problems facing the Euro over here, but we all know that it is because there is a large group of people down the street from the markets who are protesting hard and heavy against economic injustice. And as a result, the guys who normally make their daily bread pushing around stacks of money have to look busy and productive for once.Because, you know, they just can't go out to lunch in the park anymore.

If Occupy Wall Street keeps up, we may hit 13k by Christmas.

More later,

Saturday, October 15, 2011


So here's the deal, folks. I'm going to be on the road for the next few weeks, and my posting during this time will be erratic at best. Which is a problem since this space often goes into mind-numbing detail on the various elections. So I'm telling you right at the outset, that you're not going to see a lot of that this time around.

Which is a pity, because this year's off-off-year election has a lot of the meat and potatoes of government. City council members. Schools boards. Medical commissioners. County Offices. Local things. The guys who are going to do stuff that you're going to gripe about two years from now.

So I am going to cover here the stuff that has the maximum bandwidth - the Initiatives and Resolutions that everyone is going to have to vote on in Washington State. For the rest, I point to the usual suspects - The Muni League, the Stranger, the various smaller blogs that cover this stuff, and the Washington State and King County Voters Guides. And the Seattle Times as well, with a larger than normal chunk of salt applied - They spent the past three months pointing out how fouled up the Seattle School Districts are, pointed out how incurious the school board is in the matter, then proceeded to endorse all the incumbents (because, yahknow, stability is more important than curiosity).

OK, without going on too long (too late), here are the big things this year.

I-1125. This is this year's Tim Eyeman initiative. There always is at least one, and is usually notable for a) promising the voters a pony, b) screwing up government, and c) having consequences they don't tell you about. The "pony" is restricting tolls, like on the 520 bridge ( I know, how dare we put a toll on a bridge that we built in the first place with tolls). The screwing up is keeping government from moving construction funds around to needed areas, making them less responsive. The consequences are to kill the idea of light rail mass transit across the lake, since you can't toll concrete roads to pay for mass transit. That last one is why most of the money pushing this idea comes from Kemper Freeman, a big real estate wheel in the trans-Lake Washington region, who is desperately afraid that the people of Bellevue, confronted with cheap mass transit, will go somewhere else than his expensive malls to shop. The stench wafting off this is palpable. Lets go with a big NO on this one.

I-1163 - This one is a good idea in a bad year. Let's have training for the care workers for the elderly and disabled. When they are not talking about how the school board has screwed up, the Times also carries a lot of stories on badly trained or criminal caregivers. Then of course, they DON'T support this initiative, because the state is tight with money right now. So sorry, old folks - we don't love you enough to actually PROTECT you or anything. Maybe when things pick up, so keep in touch. I, my goo-goo heart aflutter, strongly support YES on this.

I-1183 - Last year, we had TWO initiatives that involved privatizing the State Liquor Stores. Both claimed to be the absolutely BEST deal possible for the state. They were voted down. Now, a new version of one of them has popped up, with an EVEN BETTER Best Deal Possible for the state. This is the Costco-backed version, which will allow hard liquor sales in stores of a particular minimum square footage (square footage that Costco has in abundance - Quelle Surprise!). The side opposing the spread of alcohol has a lot of funding from the beer and wine distributors. Wait, what? See, if this goes through, then beer and wine will be fighting for that same square footage in the store as the hard stuff (unless they take out the bakery, and you DON'T was to mess with the baked good lobby).

On this initiative, though, my conservative roots start to show through. I kind of LIKE to have an inefficient specialty store with tight regulations and a bureaucratic burden on top of it that throws a lot of money to the state that I don't pay unless I want to get sloshed. I think liquor restrictions are a pretty good thing -  I don't think of Jack Daniels as an impulse buy, and if I get to the point where the local distributor knows me by sight, I may need to cut back a little. Plus, I'm from Pennsylvania, and they wrote the BOOK on badly managed, corrupt, lousy State Stores. And Washington State hasn't seen anything of that stripe, so its not like they're doing a particularly bad job as my barkeep.

Further, has there ever been a case where privatization has helped the stakeholders of that good or service? I don't mean shareholders (the guys who make the money, and Costco just jacked up its membership - you gotta pay for all this democracy somehow), but rather the stakeholders, a group that includes employees, customers, and communities. I've drawn a blank, so despite my budding alcoholism, I have to vote NO on this one (and wait to see when next year Costco brings us and BESTEST OF BEST Deal possible).

Resolutions in Washington State are legislation that changes the state constitution, which then needs to be approved by the general populace. Sometimes they are just cleaning up language, sometimes they are more important.

SJR-8205 concerns the the length of time voters must reside in Washington to vote for President and Vice President. AHAH! It is one of these laws manipulating the rules to reduce voting that you hear about in all the GOP-dominated state, keeping people from voting! Uh, not quite. Actually, in Wash State you have to live here 30 days in order to be able to vote. But you have to live here 60 days to vote in national elections. This resolution makes it all the same - 30 days.  That's it. Yep, it makes it easier to vote and brings everything in line. Nothing to see here. Vote YES.

SJR-8206 involves the "rainy day fund", which is money put aside from the budget for times when the economy craters (like, um, now). This measure makes it possible to jack up the amount deposited in boom years ("extraordinary revenue growth"), and provides rules about taking it out ("Budgetary emergency", State employment growth below 1 percent, or we get too much money in the account). It's all not bad, but it really is a bandaid. Washington State relies on its sales tax, so in good times we boom and in bad times we have to make those hard budgetary decisions that result in bad roads and crappy schools. What we SHOULD be voting on is a more stable form of revenue, some sort of TAX on the INCOME,  perhaps,and ditching the state sales tax entirely. Still, I'm going with YES on this one.

Those are the biggies. Best of luck with the rest, stay informed, and make your voice heard. More later,

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Play: Send in the Clown

Humor Abuse, created by Lorenzo Pisoni and Erica Schmidt, directed by Erica Schmidt, Seattle Repertory Theatre until 23 October.

The Lovely Bride and I have season tickets to the Seattle Rep, and for many years support they sent us a discount card, in the hopes we would pass it on to someone else, who would then enjoy a play and thne get wrapped up in the whole theater thing. And I gave the discount card to a friend, with the warning - the first show is a one-man play, and those are always iffy propositions.

I speak from experience. It could be the fact that the pressure is on one set of shoulders that provides a heavy load. And while a one-actor wonder can be truly wonderful (K of D, last year), or thoughtful (anything by Mike Daisey), it can also be pretentious ((Texts for Nothing, which occurred before I started blogging in this space) or just godawful (Thom Paine). So knew of which I spoke.

However, waiter, I  am ready to order - The crow special looks very good, but I think I will start with my hat. Oh, and could I have a slice of homemade humble pie on the side?

Humor Abuse is a funny, warm, enjoyable, one-man show about a boy who ran away from the circus. It is Lorenzo Pisoni's autobiography of his life growing up in the Pickles Family circus, and his relationship with his father Larry. Now it is the clowning that gets you in the door - for a man who at the outset claims to not be very funny, Pisoni is hilarious as he moves through his father's routines and his own. But you stay for Pisoni's own story, of joining the act, staying with his father, continuing with the circus after his father was asked to leave, trying to escape form that past, and finally coming to terms with it.

The Pickles Family Circus was a small west coast operation of the 70s - more kin to the later Soliel than child of Barnum and Bailey. The Pisoni humor is physical, and more in the domain of painful pratfall than smiling laughter. The younger Pisoni's training was along the lines of learning how to fall down the stairs than delivering a pie. The clowns of this era (Bill Irwin was part of the gang) are more existential than funny. So the Pisonis were dealing with the humor of frustration, punctuated with the very real chance of personal injury.

I always take after the Rep-style theaters when they do one-person shows in that they don't by definition use local actors, one of the purposes of a Repertory. Well, we've seen Lorenzo Pisoni before, both as the Gatsby in the Great Gatsby, and as Jeff Ablom's schuck persona in Tuesday's at Morries. So we know he is an excellent actor to begin with. What we didn't know is the strength of his physical acting. And, the fact that he is that as a humorless clown, he is hilarious.

The performance moves through quickly, and if anything, I want to know more about Pisoni than I want to see his acts by the end (and his clowning is very good). Not only did the audience give him a standing ovation at the end, but they also stayed for slide show that was playing as they left. The slide show was supposed to play as they left, sort of end credits. And they stayed, unsure if things were really over.

Well done. Well worth seeing. More later,

Friday, October 07, 2011

Under Kandorian Skies

Yeah, it is irony when it takes me longer to tell you about the vacation than it did to experience it. But that's what happens when you have a lot of plays involved.

So this is closure, wrapping things up. We left Ashland, stopped in Portland overnight, and then headed up the Columbia Gorge to Marysville, jumped over the border into Washington State, stopped for dinner in Yakima, then home in the evening. The end.

That IS a Doozey!
Oh, all right, the details. In Portland we stayed as the Modera, a small downtown hotel reimagined for an upscale crowd - the rooms are small but original art is everywhere, and the central court is dominated by a green wall of plant cover. The afternoon was spent at the Portland Art Museum, which had a nice permanent collection within a pair of already-existing buildings, creating a large number of cul de sacs and side rooms. Three Monets, four Rodans, a John Singer Sargent.  A very nice collection, and if you haven't been, you should go. The interesting thing was a temporary show of "the Art of the Automobile", which translated into classic cars parked throughout the main gallery. Things like Steve McQueen's Jag, a Tucker, a Corvette Sting Ray, and my personal favorite car of all time, the 1931 Duesenberg (where you get the phrase"That's a Doozey!")

You hear that Portland is a younger and more vibrant town than Seattle, and its downtown has much to recommend. The hotel was awash in young artistic professionals, and walking back from dinner, we passed a group playing D&D on the porch of a game store while a young lady was parked under a lampost using the wifi. In downtown Portland. OK, I can get with it.You're younger and hipper than us. That's cool.

Kate's favorite modern art piece
The day following Portland was a day of hits and misses. We got to the Portland Rose Garden, which was all in bloom. Kate enjoyed the foliage while I considered the idea of roses as genetic intellectual property, and the huggamugga a few years back about patenting a life form. But we missed the Tea Garden. We drove up the gorge to a beautiful overlook to Vista Point, a thirties-era project that looks from afar to be something that escaped from a GRRMartin book, but could not find anything of Maya Lin's Confluence project, which is being developed along the length of the river. We got to Marysville and toured around the great Stonehenge there , but did not get to the museum there because we took the "historic" road up to Vista point, turning a 2 hour trip into a 6 hour one.

Vista Point, with wildfire.
And all under a strange red sky (hence the title of this entry). Oregon was on fire, or rather a chunk of it to the west of Mt. Hood. From Portland it was a grey line across the sky, like a belching smokestack. First I thought it pollution trapped under an inversion, but as we climbed beneath it, we discovered that the ground beneath our feet turned red from the scattered light, and our shadows were strange and shifting. It was a subtle shift as we moved through the waterfalls along the gorge, and gave the sidetrips and small hikes we made a strange quality of another world.

Oh yeah, waterfalls are all along the south side of the gorge, with walks of various length to get there. Personal fave was the Bridal Falls. The Multnomah Falls is higher, and closer to the main road, with the sad result that it was mobbed by other tourists, and parking was a pain. So if you walk, take the long road and hit the smaller falls for a better experience.

The Marysville Stonehenge
Oh, and the Stonehenge (having seen the original in England). It was created as a war memorial for local WWI vets by Sam Hill, whose tomb is nearby. The intent was to underscore that we have not advanced that far since the savage days when the original was set up. Mind you, this new version was a) built with concrete as opposed to individual stones, b) was set up to be what they thought the original "fixed" original arrangement of the henge was, and c) not oriented to the stars like the first one, because at the time they did not know about that feature. But the thought is good.

The end result of all this was about three weeks of extremely upbeat work, almost to a manic point. I was hopelessly aware that I was MUCH too much in a good mood upon my return, and had to back it off a few notches lest I frighten friends and co-workers. But it was so good to take a real vacation. I really should do it more often.

More later,

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Muppet Link

Busy this weekend. Have some Muppets.

More later,