Sunday, August 31, 2008

Blue vents
Red Menace: Russian Opposition Blogger Murdered by Police:

The owner of a website opposing the Kremlin-backed leadership of Russia's troubled Ingushetia region—scene of a recently failed separatist uprising—was shot and killed by law enforcement officials there today. Magomed Yevloyev, who ran the site, had just touched down at the airport after a trip to Moscow when police took him into custody and drove away with him in a Volga. Inside the car, Yevloyev was shot in the temple. The authorities don't even deny it, coming up with an excuse that will be quite familiar to film fans.

Using the "Vincent Vega Defense" the Prosecutor General's Office in Moscow claims that the gun accidentally went off inside the car, and just happened to hit Yevloyev directly in his brain. Though that doesn't explain why, as his friend contends, the police tossed his body into the street near a local hospital and sped off.
Palin flip-flopped on 'Bridge to Nowhere' funds:

When John McCain introduced Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate Friday, her reputation as a tough-minded budget-cutter was front and center.

"I told Congress, thanks but no thanks on that bridge to nowhere," Palin told the cheering McCain crowd, referring to Ketchikan's Gravina Island bridge.

But Palin was for the Bridge to Nowhere before she was against it.
No Experience Necessary:

That's why the important point about Palin's lack of experience isn't about Palin. It's about McCain. And the question is not how his choice of Palin might complicate his ability to use the "experience" issue, or whether he will have to drop experience as an issue. It's not even about the proper role of experience as an issue. In fact, it's not about experience at all. It's about honesty. The question should be whether McCain—and all the other Republicans who have been going on for months about Obama's dangerous lack of foreign policy experience—ever meant a word of it. And the answer is apparently not. Many conservative pundits woke up this very morning fully prepared to harp on Obama's alleged lack of experience for months more. Now they face the choice of either executing a Communist-style U-turn ("Experience? Feh! Who needs it?") or trying to keep a straight face while touting the importance of having been mayor of a town of 9,000 if you later find yourself president of a nation of 300 million.

We all know that modern political campaigns choose their issues from the cafeteria line, after market-testing them, and then having them professionally framed. Rarely, though, are we offered such a clear and unarguable example. How could anyone truly believe that Barack Obama's background and job history are inadequate experience for a president, and simultaneously believe that Sarah Palin's background and job history are perfectly adequate? It's possible to believe one or the other. But both? Simply not possible. John McCain has been—what's the word?—lying. And so have all the pundits who rushed to defend McCain's choice.
Gothamist: James Powderly, GRL Founder, Detained in Beijing:

Would you say the interrogations were torture?

Well, I think probably, a lot of people might disagree, even some of my other detainees might feel like what they received wasn't torture. And relative to what someone might receive on a daily basis at a place like Gitmo it certainly is not particularly harsh. It's kind of like being a little bit pregnant, we were a little bit tortured. We were strapped into chairs in uncomfortable positions, we were put into cages with blood on the floor and told we would never live, we were sleep deprived the entire time. There was an interrogation every night and they kept us up all day. They never turned the lights off in the cells. We were fed food that was inedible, we were not given potable water. Any time you threaten and take the numbers of family members and take down home addresses, there's an element of mental torture there. There's physical torture in the form of us having to sit in uncomfortable positions all day long and spending the night strapped to a metal chair inside of a cage. We all have cuts and bruises from that, and some of my peers were beaten up a little bit.
Searching for textures
Report: Massive, warrantless raids on peace protesters in Minneapolis, ahead of RNC. - Boing Boing:

Glenn Greenwald at reports that protesters in Minneapolis, where the Republican National Convention will soon begin, have been subjected to massive, pre-emptive police raids. Those arrested include members of Food not Bombs, and a group calling itself the "RNC Welcoming Committee," and a group that uses video to protect civil liberties by documenting police activity at first amendment events. Snip:

They have been targeted by a series of highly intimidating, sweeping police raids across the city, involving teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with semi-automatic weapons drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets. Last night, members of the St. Paul police department and the Ramsey County sheriff's department handcuffed, photographed and detained dozens of people meeting at a public venue to plan a demonstration, charging them with no crime other than "fire code violations," and early this morning, the Sheriff's department sent teams of officers into at least four Minneapolis area homes where suspected protesters were staying.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan:

Some patent piffle from Ross. He's trying to argue that because I haven't swooned over the chance of a female vice-president who didn't get there by marriage, like Clinton, I'm somehow being inconsistent. Please. I do admire someone who's risen the way Palin has, and I've said lots of nice things about her. But let's be honest: Palin is now where she is - not as Alaska governor but as vice-presidential nominee - because an old white guy decided to play some identity politics, and felt he had to shake up his campaign, not because she has fought her way to the top of the national greasy pole. It's great that by a combination of a decrepit and degenerate political establishment in Alaska, and her own personality and tenacity, she has just become governor of Alaska. But McCain's choice of her - as is impossible to miss - is a cynical ploy to exploit Democratic divisions over gender. I mean: how many Republican vice-presidential picks have lauded Hillary Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro in their acceptance speech? It wasn't even subtle. I find this kind of attitude to be about condescension, not feminism, about tokenism, not post-gender meritocracy.

And, please, there is nothing sexist in being amused by the names of someone's kids; I found the Romney gaggle hilarious. She was a beauty queen, for Pete's sake. She has been presented to the nation like a trophy candidate. And some women do indeed find her running for vice-president with a four-month-old disabled child somewhat incongruous. These are the big leagues. These issues are worth airing.

My sense is that this pick is insulting to voters, especially women voters, and terribly condescending to Palin. It's as much about countering sexism as picking Clarence Thomas was about countering racism.
marry me
The deluded Obama critics who think $250,000 is a middle-class salary. - By Daniel Gross - Slate Magazine:

I await the tidal wave of e-mails and blog posts from self-made, hardworking, accomplished people who earn $250,000 but who don't feel financially secure and who don't consider themselves rich, especially compared to the venture capitalist next door. Having spent my entire adult life in and around Washington, Boston, and New York, I feel you. I'm eager to listen and empathize. Tell me all about how home prices in areas with good public schools are insanely expensive. Tell me about how many other seemingly undeserving people make so much more. Tell me about your proposals to devise an income tax system that accounts for geographically divergent costs of living (the Alternative Yuppie Tax?). Just don't tell me you're not rich.

2810415169 Cdc0E24B7D B
Aqua regia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

When Germany invaded Denmark in World War II, the Hungarian chemist George de Hevesy dissolved the gold Nobel Prizes of Max von Laue and James Franck into aqua regia to prevent the Nazis from stealing them. He placed the resulting solution on a shelf in his laboratory at the Niels Bohr Institute. It was subsequently ignored by the Nazis who thought the jar—one of perhaps hundreds on the shelving—contained common chemicals. After the war, de Hevesy returned to find the solution undisturbed and precipitated the gold out of the acid. The gold was returned to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Nobel Foundation who recast and presented the medals to Laue and Franck.
I'm sorry Mrs. Jackson

Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain's VP Wants Creationism Taught in School | Wired Science from

Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin wants creationism taught in science classes.

In a 2006 gubernatorial debate, the soon-to-be governor of Alaska said of evolution and creation education, "Teach both. You know, don't be afraid of education. Healthy debate is so important, and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both."
An Old one.
Sioux City Journal: Olive Garden arrives:

A martini is not a martini without an olive.

That, at least, is the thinking of a true connoisseur.

And to Siouxland residents, many of whom consider themselves connoisseurs of fine food, a city is not a city without an Olive Garden. So as of Monday, Sioux City becomes a real city.
Learn to love the bomb - Time Out Chicago:

Mike Daisey, the iconoclastic New York monologuist known for his hybrid style of exhaustive research and improvised stand-up (which he usually performs sitting down), makes his Chicago debut in October. His play about Sam Cohen, father of the neutron bomb, and the evolution of the Department of Homeland Security is called If You See Something, Say Something. We ask him why he chose the topic and, of course, his answers scare the bejesus out us.
The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan:

The more I think about it, the more staggered I am by the pick. It's totally about electioneering (misguidedly, I'd hazard, but I don't know enough about her to know yet) and fundamentally unserious about governing.

The first criterion for a veep - and I'm simply repeating a truism here - is that they are ready to take over at a moment's notice. That's especially true when you have a candidate as old as McCain. That's more than especially true when we are at war, in an era of astonishingly difficult challenges, when the next president could be grappling with war in the Middle East or a catastrophic terror attack at home. Under those circumstances, we could have a former Miss Alaska with two terms years under her belt as governor. Now compare McCain's pick with Obama's: a man with solid foreign policy experience, six terms in Washington and real relationships with leaders across the globe.

One pick is by a man of judgment; the other is by a man of vanity.

She may be a fine person, but she's my age, she has zero Washington experience, and no foreign policy expertise whatsoever.

McCain has just told us how seriously he takes the war we are in. Not seriously at all.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Former Virginia Governor's Comment On Science At Convention Lights Up Twitter | Threat Level from

It didn't ignite the crowd at the Pepsi Center in Denver Tuesday night in the same way as Hillary Clinton's speech did, but the 2008 Democratic National Convention keynote by former Virginia Governor Mark Warner lit up the micro-blogging service Twitter as its geek community celebrated a throwaway line in Warner's speech.

Warner, a former Capitol Hill staffer for senator Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut) and telecommunications entrepreneur, focused his speech on creating an environment that keeps America competitive in the global economy.

In a one-liner, he quipped: "Just think about this: In four months, we will have an administration that actually believes in science!"
Whitby East Pier IV
List of problems solved by MacGyver - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

MacGyver is in a room trying to get out, but sees the key in the other side of the locked door. He takes out a map, unfurls it and sticks it under the door. He then pushes the key out of the lock using his Swiss Army knife, which lands on the map. He then drags the map back under the door, thereby getting the key to unlock him from the room.

In order to disguise himself, MacGyver rolls up the same map and uses it as a peashooter to distract a woman who was washing some clothes.

To get away from a guard with a gun aimed at him, he wraps the same map around an iron bar to disguise the bar from the guard. He first bats away the gun and then slugs guard in the chest with it.

MacGyver uses the same map again as a makeshift sled to slide down sand dunes to get away from the guards chasing him.

While escaping the guards, one of them shoots a bullet through the side of the balloon he is escaping in. He uses the same map and some duct tape to patch a hole over the balloon fabric and escape.
odd one {facing} out
Plans B Damned: The Quest for Emergency Contraception | Reproductive Health |

I am a middle class 29 year old mother of three, living in the Midwest, who sees a physician regularly. I have kept up on the news about Plan B's availability over the counter at major drug stores. In my line of work, I regularly tell teens and young adults to always use protection, and tell girls of reproductive age who aren't so into the whole reproduction thing that they should be on birth control.

I encouraged young women and men to seek Plan B if their contraceptive method failed or they forgot to use contraception, telling them it was easy to obtain. But was it?

On a Tuesday morning at 7 a.m., I set out to discover just how easy it would be for me to get my hands on some emergency contraception.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Creamy Stevens
Interesting to think about in light of our constant discussions of the cost of theater tickets...and the level of public financing is impossibly high, which should be used to clarify discussions in the theatrical blogosphere about the horrors of government funding--obviously America does like to spend its tax dollars on public events. I think this is exactly the kind of thing theater is blind to, in terms of seeing itself in the context of our society.

Tickets for New Stadiums - Prices, and Outrage, Escalate -

The Giants have said they will charge from $1,000 to $20,000 a seat for their personal seat licenses; once fans buy the seat licenses, they will still have to pay from $85 to $700 a ticket. The Jets are expected to unveil their ticket plan Tuesday.

Tickets for the best seats at the 85-year-old Yankee Stadium, which sold for $1,000 a seat this season, will jump at the new ballpark to $2,500; in other areas of the stadium, they will range from $135 to $500 for season tickets. Prices for single-game tickets, which ranged from $14 to $400 this season, will be released later.

The best seats at Citi Field, which cost $276 at Shea Stadium this season, will soar to $495, with other season tickets ranging from $125 to $225 a game. Single-game tickets this season ranged from $5 to $117. (Citi Field’s capacity of about 42,500 compares with 57,333 at Shea.) Neither team has made known all of its prices. Both teams also say broad swaths of more modestly priced tickets will be available.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Kids can't "go out and play" anymore - Boing Boing:

But today, for most middle-class American children, "going out to play" has gone the way of the dodo, the typewriter and the eight-track tape. From 1981 to 1997, for instance, University of Michigan time-use studies show that 3- to 5-year-olds lost an average of 501 minutes of unstructured playtime each week; 6- to 8-year-olds lost an average of 228 minutes. (On the other hand, kids now do more organized activities and have more homework, the lucky devils!) And forget about walking to school alone. Today's kids don't walk much at all (adding to the childhood obesity problem).

Increasingly, American children are in a lose-lose situation. They're forced, prematurely, to do all the un-fun kinds of things adults do (Be over-scheduled! Have no downtime! Study! Work!). But they don't get any of the privileges of adult life: autonomy, the ability to make their own choices, use their own judgment, maybe even get interestingly lost now and then.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Keep me hidden
[305|365] where did saturday go?
Chimping - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Chimping is a term used in digital photography (especially when using a digital single-lens reflex camera) to describe the habit of checking every photo on the on-camera display (LCD) immediately after capture.

Experienced photographers often use the term in a derogatory sense to describe the actions of wannabe photographers (often called newbies).[1]

Usage behaviour varies depending on context and the person using it, but common uses include:

* When a photographer’s sounds and actions of reviewing frames on-scene appear similar to the actions of an excited primate (Oooh! Oooh! Aaah!)
* When the photographer is completely absorbed in the act of analysing, admiring or proudly showing a photo off to others

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Portland Mercury | Pullout | Mike Daisey: MONOPOLY! and IF YOU SEE SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING:

The book version of 21 Dog Years merely demonstrates Daisey's immense storytelling gift: his ability to seamlessly weave social commentary, in-depth historical research, and personal anecdote, creating not a thread but a rope of narration that moves almost tangibly through space and time. In one of his planned TBA monologues, MONOPOLY!, for instance, Daisey fluctuates between the real-life saga of Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison's battle over electricity standards, the secret history of the actual board game Monopoly, and the impact Wal-Mart has had on his hometown in Maine. For his other TBA show, the much more recently developed IF YOU SEE SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING, he addresses the history of Homeland Security (the show's title is the organization's creepy motto), the biography of the man who invented the terrifying neutron bomb, and his own pilgrimage to the Trinity Site in New Mexico, where America's first nuclear weapon was tested. Each topic could easily comprise a book of its own; Daisey effortlessly fits them all into two separate 100-minute performances, unearthing connections between them that surprise and delight.

But as befits a great storyteller, Daisey's tales must be heard to be believed. While he exhibits pitch-perfect comic timing and a strong, confident physicality onstage, it is his voice that dazzles most. Speaking, he sounds outraged yet reasonable, cynical yet hopeful, wise beyond his 34 years, and most importantly, deeply empathetic. Emanating from a round, friendly-looking man with a wide, expressive face, it is a voice that seems to be speaking directly to you no matter how large the crowd around you. It is a voice that invites you to join Daisey under the great umbrella of the world and gaze out from under it with chagrin and wonder.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Two Women Sentenced to ‘Re-education’ in China -

BEIJING — Two elderly Chinese women have been sentenced to a year of “re-education through labor” after they repeatedly sought a permit to demonstrate in one of the official Olympic protest areas, according to family members and human rights advocates.

The women, Wu Dianyuan, 79, and Wang Xiuying, 77, had made five visits to the police this month in an effort to get permission to protest what they contended was inadequate compensation for the demolition of their homes in Beijing.

During their final visit on Monday, public security officials informed them that they had been given administrative sentences for “disturbing the public order,” according to Li Xuehui, Ms. Wu’s son.

This is the water from the sink of my luxury hotel in Dushanbe. This is a representative photo, after the water has been left running for some time--when it's first turned on it is sometimes much worse, but I never saw it get much better than this.


This is the star attraction of Dushanbe's one museum—it's the last of the giant Buddha figures of central Asia. The Taliban destroyed all the rest but this one, which was hidden in a cellar for years to avoid it's destruction. The fact that it is displayed in a room that looks more like a conference room than the Met actually makes it look even more impressive, as it is out of scale to the room that they've managed to fit it in.


Coca-Cola in Central Asia. It's bottled in Kabul, Afghanistan, where all the Coke for central Asia comes from.


Because when when we think of beauty, we think of human children suckling at the teats of a wolf.


Because of the scale of Dushanbe, the Soviet-era murals work very well on the street, and often they're the brightest and most color-saturated things visible. I don't normally associate the former USSR with brightness and color, but in Tajikistan I do.


The Princess Diana Hair Salon. The pop culture part of my lizard brain begs to make some kind of snarky, pithy comment, but I will leave that as an exercise for readers of this site.


Babillou, a Soviet/Iranian film star who has retired and runs the only independent arts facility in Dushanbe. We had tea together in his office, and he showed me pictures from his career, including this one.


The view from the edge of the theater, where the first presidential palace is visible...and it fact Babillou told me that those windows are the windows into the president's office. Since our storytellers' pieces were honest and truthful, which is a rarity under this repressive regime, I think it matters that we did it here.


One of my favorite storytellers, Anahit, at the mic during sound check. Her story of life during the war after her husband had been disappeared brought the house down, and she did such a fantastic job that I still get chills today remembering what she said. Anya, our fabulous translator, watches her work--Anya did marvelous work for the performance itself, and without her fantastic simultaneous translations in rehearsals we never would have been able to pull this off.


The performance was magical--we had a house that filled up, and as darkness fell in the open theater we heard story after story in different languages, and the crowd was entranced. There were spontaneous shouts, applause and at one point people in the audience all began reciting a poem together loudly--I have been unable to determine what poem and exactly why, but it's clear that it was a positive reaction.

Catherine, the artistic director of The Moth, did such a fantastic job shaping the stories, and I was honored and thrilled to assist her in that work—I learned a great deal here, about the country, about my own country, and about myself.


Friday, August 15, 2008


At TSUM, the Soviet-era department store in Dushanbe, safes are one of the most popular items, sold alongside cabinetry. This is because most of the purchasers are drug lords for the massive trade that comes up from Afghanistan.


This is the new presidential palace in Dushanbe, not to be confused with the old palace, or the summer residence in the city, and even more monstrosities of the local despot, who is democratic in name only. The furniture in the new palace cost $57 million—by comparison, Tajikisatns GDP last year was $990 million. It would only cost $10 million dollars to end the cholera epidemics here and provide clean drinking water, but that is not a priority to the government.


And this is a shot I covertly took inside the park of the encampments there, where workers who are building the new palace and renovating the park live--most are convicts from China, who are brought to Tajikistan as part of a massive program to use Chinese prisoners as slave labor in countries China is allied with, like Tajikistan.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

This is a recording of the processional music at a Tajik wedding I was lucky enough to unexpectedly attend today: check it out here.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


Murals like this one are common in Dushanbe--they all date from before the fall of the Soviet Union. Today there's no money for such things, and it's faintly unimaginable—the young do not remember the Soviet era. These relics have little to do with the world of Dushanbe today.


This is a decaying Soviet-era theatre in Dushanbe, where we'll be performing the show. It is coming apart into pieces, rotting away—the red velvet curtains came from Moscow, in a different age, long ago.


The theaters of Dushanbe have been dark for almost twenty years. This will be the first theatrical performance here in a long, long time.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


This decaying Soviet apartment building is one block from the presidential palace.

The feral dog came around this corner on the right about six seconds after this picture was taken. I've never been attacked by a dog before, where the dog wanted to kill me. I had to beat him off of me with my bag until he ran.

Friday, August 01, 2008

I am traveling for the month of August to Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Istanbul and points beyond. I will be checking email intermittently, as circumstances allow, and will be back in the States at the end of August. There may be site updates, and there may not be--it will depend on net connections, my whims, and available time.

Seven Deadly Sins, Greed
MacNN | Feds can seize travelers' electronics, more:

As of July 16, US federal agents have the power to seize travelers' laptops and other electronic devices at the border and hold them for however long they want, says a Friday report. The seizures do not require a suspicion of wrongdoing, and are aimed to counter terrorism, with the new policies passed by two Department of Homeland Security agencies. The contents of the confiscated laptops and electronics can then be shared with not only other agencies, but private entities in order to decrypt the data they contain.

DHS officials maintain the new policies allow federal agents to take any hard drives, flash drives, cell phones, iPods, pagers, beepers and video or audio tapes, as well as books and any written materials from any person entering the USA, US citizens included. While the measures were being practiced before they were made public in mid-July, pressure from civil rights and business travel groups made the government admit the existence new policies.