Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Technology Equalizes

Another example of how advances in technology equalize our capabilities and reduce the cost of living for everyone in the long run comes courtesy of this morning's Guardian:

A top paparazzo has said business for celebrity photographers is under serious threat from an army of amateurs and opportunists snapping stars on their mobile phones.

German Hans Paul, who says he once earned $120,000 for a picture of a then-pregnant Julia Roberts, said fees for paparazzi had been driven to new lows as even fans and autograph hunters now know how to market their pictures.

He said the development of camera technology on mobile phones and the internet meant that ordinary people could send quality pictures to newspapers, web portals and other media within seconds anywhere around the globe, taking business away from professional celebrity snappers.

Demonstrating that the laws of supply and demand apply even in the most sleazy nooks and crannies of the economy, Mr. Paul laments:
"There is no doubt that we paparazzi are suffering from this. There is hardly any money to be made in the everyday business."
Pull out your cellphones, and weep for the paparazzi.

'The Envelope, Please . . .'

For those of you who went to sleep Sunday night -- or was it Monday morning? -- thinking that Martin Scorcese was the big winner for his twisted crime drama, The Departed, think again.

Scorcese -- who accepted his Oscar from three of his nearest peers (Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg) -- has some catching up to do, because the weekend's biggest award winner was Michael Lucas, whose La Dolce Vita took home 14 trophies.

Who is Michael Lucas? What is La Dolce Vita? Fair questions, since I always thought La Dolce Vita was directed by Federico Fellini and released in 1960, not 2006.

According to Edge Boston,

Capping an astonishing night at the Castro Theatre, Michael Lucas’ La Dolce Vita made GAYVN history tonight with wins in 14 categories, including Best Picture, at the annual ceremony.

Though it’s not unusual for individual movies to be rich in nominations, it is extremely rare for a movie to garner double-digit wins. The previous record holder, Buckshot Productions’ BuckleRoos, won 11 awards in 2005.

Michael Lucas’ La Dolce Vita has the further distinction of winning an award in every category in which it was nominated.
That's right: Eclipsing the combined success of The Departed, Pan's Labyrinth, and Little Miss Sunshine, the inconvenient truth is that La Dolce Vita swept this years gay adult video awards.

If the San Francisco Chronicle report is accurate, the GAYVN ceremony was the place to be last Saturday night, with famously B-list comedienne Kathy Griffin hosting and local celebrities dotting the crowd:

The night honored some deserving industry pioneers with lifetime achievement awards, including San Franciscan Peter Berlin. The nominated documentary on his life, however, lost out to "Gay Sex in the 70s."

The weekend highlighted San Francisco's position as the capital of the gay porn industry. Elected officials -- including Assemblyman Mark Leno, Mayor Gavin Newsom and City Treasurer Jose Cisneros -- penned official statements honoring Colt Studios, which celebrated its 40th anniversary Friday. City Supervisor Bevan Dufty worked the crowd in the lobby of the theater before the Saturday night ceremony.

If San Francisco is the capital of the gay porn industry, what does that make the San Fernando Valley? Is Congressman Brad Sherman not delivering for his constituents in the Fightin' 27th?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Neal Boortz Coming to Charlottesville

No doubt I am not the first to note this, since it was announced Wednesday morning on WINA, but talk-show host Neal Boortz is coming to Charlottesville next month to promote his new book, Somebody's Gotta Say It, which (as of a few minutes ago) is ranked sixth on Amazon.com's top sellers.

In addition to a book-signing at the Omni, Boortz will be hosting his syndicated show from the WINA studios on March 22.

Boortz, based in Atlanta, is the co-author (with Congressman John Linder) of the New York Times bestseller, The Fair Tax Book, which lays out the case for a national sales tax to replace the income tax as the federal government's primary means to raise revenue.

Except for John Stossel, Neal Boortz is probably the most prominent libertarian in the news and opinion broadcast media. According to a Talkers magazine compilation of Arbitron ratings, Boortz is the sixth-highest-rated radio talk-show host (tied with Mike Gallagher), with a minimum weekly audience of 3.5 million. (By contrast, top-rated Rush Limbaugh gets 13.5 million and Air America's Al Franken -- now a Senate candidate in Minnesota -- had about 1.5 million listeners.) Another Talkers ranking -- based on a survey of industry insiders -- puts Boortz ninth in a list of the "250 Most Important Radio Talk Show Hosts in America," explaining

The TALKERS magazine editors who painstakingly compile this super-list draw upon a combination of hard and soft factors when evaluating candidates. These include (in alphabetical order): courage, effort, impact, longevity, potential, ratings, recognition, revenue, service, talent, and uniqueness. We acknowledge that it is as much art as science and that the results are arguable.
In terms of his plans to visit Charlottesville, WINA's web site explains, rather excitedly:
If you've ever wanted to see Neal in person and hear the incredible things he says while sitting a few feet from him, the opportunity has come. Thanks to our friends at the Omni Hotel, Ambassador Limousine, and your local Pepsi Cola Bottlers, Neal will appear at the Omni at 7pm on March 21st and will be signing copies of his new best selling book, "Somebody's Gotta Say It" which is number one on Amazon dot com. You CAN BE THERE, keep listening for details to find out how! Admission to the event is by ticket only!
You can hear Rob Schilling's on-air interview with Neal Boortz, discussing the upcoming trip to Virginia, here. According to a book tour schedule posted on boortz.com, the Talkmeister will also be signing books at a Barnes & Noble in Virginia Beach on March 20.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Gay Stories with Odd Angles

Tomorrow's edition of The Forward features a report on the large number of gay men and lesbians who exhibit an interest in Yiddish culture, including especially klezmer music.

The author, New York attorney Kathleen Peratis, asks:

Never heard of the Queer Yiddishkeit movement? Until last summer, neither did I.

Then, an Israeli friend told me he had learned from his (straight) daughter, a doctoral student in women’s Yiddish literature at Berkeley, that a large proportion of her colleagues are gay. Really? Interviews over the next several months of past and present YIVO staff members, klezmer performers, Yiddish scholars and others confirmed it: Gay Jews have flocked to Yiddish and klezmer.
Peratis suggests some possible explanations for this connection:
The affinities between gay people and Yiddish, and especially bundist, culture are, when you think about it, obvious: both are staunchly secular, cosmopolitan, progressive and often marginalized. “Queer Yiddishkeit gives me permission to go back to the world of my grandparents without leaving myself behind,” juggler Sara Felder said.

“It’s about alienation from the Jewish religious establishment,” said Alisa Solomon, a former staff writer for The Village Voice. “There’s a kind of analogy people make with the marginalized status of Yiddish itself. It’s an outsider stance.”
She also writes that the association is not exactly recent, pointing to articles from the 1980s and 1990s that make a similar connection. But it goes back even farther, she says:
The presence of gay people and gay themes in Yiddish culture, however, is not new. Queer Yiddishists tell us, for example, that Yiddish cinema in the 1930s contained “encrypted messages” on homosexuality — think Molly Picon in her trouser role in “Yidl Mitn Fidl,” what Eve Sicular calls “cross-dressing in the service of family values.” She refers to the “gay subtext of Yiddish cinema during its heyday, from the 1920s to the outbreak of World War II, which reveals distinctly Jewish concerns of the time” such as “conflicted identity, passing, and same-sex attachments.”
Now I know why I spent Thanksgiving weekend last year reading Michael Wex's fascinating book, Born to Kvetch.

On another topic entirely, the March issue of Details magazine -- which appears on newsstands on February 27 -- reports that
America's most desirable managers all have one thing in common: homosexuality.
In the article, correspondent Danielle Sacks cites a recent academic study:

In The G Quotient: Why Gay Executives Are Excelling as Leaders . . . and What Every Manager Needs to Know, author and USC business-school professor Kirk Snyder argues that gay bosses embody a style of personalized attention that allows high-maintenance Gen Xers and Yers to maximize their performance. "Gay executives tend to look at how each individual brings unique abilities, and they see their job as figuring out how best to take advantage of those skills," he says.

In fact, during Snyder's five-year study of American executives, he stumbled on some startling findings: Gay male bosses produce 35 to 60 percent higher levels of employee engagement, satisfaction, and morale than straight bosses. This is no small achievement: According to human-resources consulting firm Towers Perrin, only a measly 14 percent of the global corporate workforce are fully engaged by their jobs. And the Saratoga Institute, a group that measures the effectiveness of HR departments, found that in a study of 20,000 workers who had quit their jobs, the primary motivator for jumping ship was their supervisors' behavior.

So what makes gay bosses different? It may have to do with the way they survived high school. "Gay people are constantly having to dodge and weave and assess how and where they're going as they grow up," says Snyder. "And that manifests itself as three huge skills: adaptability, intuitive communications, and creative problem-solving." In other words, your boss is cool with your leaving a little early one day a week to pick up your kid from school, or happy to offer a learning experience that helps you close a crucial deal.

What could all this mean? Perhaps it means that when you mutter under your breath something about your boss being a "first-rate c**ks**ker" (this is a workplace-friendly blog), you're really expressing your admiration and envy of him.

I Read It on the Internet, So It Must Be True ...

I found this study cited on the "Terra Incognita" page of the March 2007 issue of Liberty magazine. It was originally reported by Beth Krane in UConn Advance, a faculty and staff publication at the University of Connecticut:

When researchers in the Neag School of Education asked 25 seventh-graders from middle schools across the state to review a web site devoted to a fictitious endangered species, the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus, the results troubled them:

* All 25 students fell for the Internet hoax;
* All but one of the 25 rated the site as “very credible;”
* Most struggled when asked to produce proof – or even clues – that the web site was false, even after the UConn researchers told them it was; and
* Some of the students still insisted vehemently that the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus really exists.

The students – identified as their schools' most proficient online readers – are taking part in a federal research project, funded by a $1.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The project is currently underway in six Connecticut middle schools.

“These results are cause for serious concern,” says the project's lead researcher, Don Leu, who holds the John and Maria Neag Chair in Literacy and Technology at UConn, “because anyone can publish anything on the Internet and today's students are not prepared to critically evaluate the information they find there.”
I was surprised to learn from Krane's story that
Connecticut is in the bottom one third of states when it comes to integrating Internet into classroom instruction, lagging behind such states as Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, and Oklahoma.
Those interested in finding out more about the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus can look here.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Listen In

This just in:

I have been invited to be a guest on the WINA morning show tomorrow (Wednesday, February 21) during the 8:00 o'clock hour, to discuss voting machine technology and the prospects of changing the configuration of Charlottesville's voting precincts.

According to co-host Rob Schilling, I will likely be interviewed during segments beginning at 8:20 a.m. and 8:50 a.m.

Be sure to tune in. (WINA is found at 1070 on the AM dial.)

Friday, February 16, 2007

'"Doubt" Is Divine'

About two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of conducting a telephone interview with actress Caroline Stefanie Clay. Now on tour with Doubt, she was staying in the same Holiday Inn Express hotel in Hartford, Connecticut, where I spoke to Tonye Patano while she was on tour with Legends! Like Legends!, which had a short run in Washington last fall, Doubt is coming to the National Theatre for two weeks beginning March 13.

Ms. Clay was a natural subject for an interview: I asked one question, and half an hour later I said, "I think it's time to let you go." She was gracious, funny, and passionate. I very much enjoyed chatting with her.

As a result of our conversation, I wrote an article for The Metro Herald, which should appear next week (in the February 23 issue). Here is what I submitted to the newspaper:

Interview with Caroline Stefanie Clay:
Appearing in Doubt, D.C. Native Has Homecoming
Rick Sincere
Metro Herald Entertainment Editor

Actress Caroline Stefanie Clay is a Washington native and graduate of the Duke Ellington School for the Arts who is now touring in a production of John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Doubt, which will arrive at the National Theatre on March 13 for a limited, two-week run.

The original Broadway production of Doubt garnered many laurels, among them eight Tony nominations (winning four awards, including Best Play of 2005) and five Drama Desk Awards (including Outstanding New Play).

Clay plays the pivotal role of Mrs. Muller, who appears on stage for just a few minutes but who has such a dramatic impact that Clay’s predecessor in the role, Adriane Lenox, received a Tony Award for it. (Clay understudied for Lenox throughout the Broadway run of Doubt.)

In an exclusive interview with The Metro Herald, Caroline Stefanie Clay shared reflections on her life growing up in Northwest D.C., her career as an actress, and her role in Doubt.

Clay grew up near the corner of Nebraska Avenue and Military Road. Her father was a high-ranking official in the Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Carter administration, and he later served a similar role, locally, under Mayor Marion Barry.

“I grew up in melting pot of a lot of embassy kids,” says Clay, noting that among the neighbors on her street were “Greeks, Ethiopians, Somalis, Chileans, Russians, Chinese.” She went to Lafayette Elementary School, which she describes as “an international community.”

“It wasn't until I went to Alice Deal Junior High,” she notes, “that I got into the African-American community.”

Even so, she says, “we grew up being very aware that ‘if you're black, you've got to work three times as hard’” – an admonition that has guided her professional ethic ever since.

Her mother, whom she describes as “a brainy oddball” was an English teacher who came from Louisville. “My brother and I still laugh at this: she would get The Canterbury Tales and read them to us in Middle English. She was determined not to raise her children by television.” Instead of TV, Clay remembers, during her formative years “we would go to museums.” Moreover, Clay’s mother would “lock the screen door to keep us outside and said, ‘Go find your friends; if you can't find them, make them.’”

During her teenage years, Clay says, “I was very, very lucky. I was a product of the Mayor's Youth Employment Program. To me, that program was one of the most progressive and forward-thinking programs. One year I worked at Smithsonian Visitors Center, I also worked at Hirshhorn museum in the slide registry, learning about 20th century modern art, learning about Picasso and Pollack. I was with D.C. Youth Orchestra one summer, and also with D.C. Street Theatre. Those were the kinds of things you could do, as long as you applied yourself.”

Ellington School co-founder Mike Malone, who passed away last December, was a mentor to Clay. “He was instrumental in giving me confidence to know that I could do what I could do. He told us the life skills you can gain from here -- if you're paying attention -- if you soak up what we have to offer, there really isn't anything you can't do.” At Ellington, “there was always a reinforcement of African-American achievement. That's what thrust me out into the world.” Clay adds, with a chuckle, that after high school, “Perhaps people thought I was arrogant -- definitely crazy.”

After high school, Clay went on to study in Philadelphia and dove into the New York theatre scene. “When I graduated college, I did not go to grad school. I got my union card and was ready to work.” Sadly, Washington was not welcoming to the newly-trained actress. ” I came home after college, auditioned, and didn't get response. I have to say it wasn't until I went to New York that I was able to work in D.C. Unfortunately, there are some places that won't give you a second look unless you've been working in New York.”

She did, however, get a second look eventually. Now a classically trained actress, she appeared at the Shakespeare Theatre with Kelly McGillis in The Duchess of Malfi. She has nothing but praise for the Shakespeare Theatre’s artistic director: “Michael Kahn is brilliant -- he is a true master teacher,” she says.

Clay admires the Washington theatre scene in general, too. “There is such a rich, talented, theatrical community in D.C., they don't need a lot of people from outside.”

“I am always happy to come back,” she says, especially since it gives her an opportunity to “figure out how to get theatre students from Duke Ellington” back together for a mini-reunion.

"The last time I was in DC,” Clay said, she was a finalist in a theatre festival, doing Lady Day from Emerson's Bar and Grille. “I said I am so very proud to be in D.C.”

Getting back to her current production, Clay says, “I play a character back in 1964, who is working very hard to protect her son, dealing with a priest who may have dealt with son in improper manner. My response to that allegation is what you can never, never imagine.”

Doubt, she says, is actually “two plays -- the play that's on stage, and the one that’s off stage, where people talk about it afterwards.”

“I love being in Doubt,” says Clay. “I think Doubt is divine in all things.”

Doubt opens at the National Theatre on Tuesday, March 13, and closes with two performances on Sunday, March 25. Ticket prices range from $38.75 to $78.75 and are available through Telecharge.com or via phone at (800) 447-7400. Tickets area also available at National Theatre Box Office. For more information, visit www.doubtthetour.com.

(Photo of Cherry Jones and Caroline Stefanie Clay from Doubt courtesy of the National Theatre. Photo credit: Craig Schwartz)

Friday, February 09, 2007

150 Years and Counting

My alma mater (one of them, that is) is featured in the cover story of Small Business Times, a weekly publication with a readership throughout southeastern Wisconsin.

Noting the 150th anniversary of the founding of Marquette University High School, the article by Elizabeth Hockerman lists some of the prominent alumni of MUHS:

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett; Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke; Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and former D.A. E. Michael McCann; multiple municipal and circuit court judges; Peter Bonerz, actor and director on “The Bob Newhart Show” and others; Terry Brennan, University of Notre Dame running back and coach; Rick Majerus, former men’s basketball coach at the University of Utah and current ESPN analyst; Spencer Tracy, Oscar winning actor (attended but did not graduate); Harry Quadracci, founder of Quad/Graphics Inc. in Sussex; James T. Barry III, president and chief executive officer of Colliers Barry, Milwaukee; John Cary, executive director of the MACC Fund, Milwaukee; Ward and Lincoln Fowler, founders of Alterra Coffee Roasters, Milwaukee; Bill Bertha, president of U.S. Bank’s Wisconsin division; John Shiely, president and chief executive officer of Briggs & Stratton Corp., Wauwatosa; Dr. Michael Dunn, senior vice president and dean of Medical College of Wisconsin, Wauwatosa; Jon Greenberg, president of the Milwaukee Admirals hockey team; Dan Meyer, publisher of Small Business Times; and Pat Dunphy, attorney at Cannon & Dunphy S.C., Milwaukee.
I wonder if the fact that the publisher of Small Business Times is an alumnus factored into this story making it to the cover of the February 2 issue? And why is Clement Zablocki, the local politician who defeated my grandfather in a 1948 congressional race and went on to become chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives, left off the list? (I am sure other prominent alumni are missing. A lot of people have graduated in 150 years!)

The article offers this thumbnail history of the school:

Marquette University High School was originally formed in 1857 as St. Aloysius Academy on what is now North Third and West Michigan streets. In 1864 a new building was constructed, and the school was renamed St. Gall’s Academy.

(I'm glad it didn't retain that name. I went to a college whose cheer was "Hoya Saxa" -- roughly translated as "what rocks!" That's bad enough, but can you imagine going to a school whose teams would be known, officially or unofficially, as the Gall Stones?)

Small Business Times continues its look back:

Marquette College was established on North 10th and West State streets, on top of a hill, in 1881, and its nickname was the Hilltoppers. Marquette College was a six-year schooling program where students entered at age 14 and graduated with a college diploma at age 20. For the next 20 years, Marquette College experienced steady growth in enrollment and split into two entities in 1907.

Education was divided into the four-year Marquette Academy, later to be named Marquette University High School, and a four-year college, later to be called Marquette University.

In 1922, the academy officially became Marquette University High School, and in 1925, the school settled into its current location at 3401 W. Wisconsin Ave. in the Merrill Park neighborhood of Milwaukee.

Guided by the Jesuits and inspired by its namesake, Fr. Jacques Marquette, the first European to travel through and map the northern portion of Mississippi River, Marquette University High School has created a tradition of community service, perseverance and discovery for its students.

In a sidebar, Hockerman reports that
Marquette High is undergoing a capital campaign to raise more than $22 million, which will cover a $17 million building project and establish a $5 million endowment for future teacher hires, training and continued education, according to Pat Dunphy of Cannon & Dunphy, S.C., Brookfield and chair of the capital campaign.
The money raised will finance a two-phased building project, as well as underwriting an endowment to attract faculty and staff to the college preparatory school:
The $5 million mission endowment will ensure for the next 150 years that Marquette High can hire new faculty and train them in Ignatian formation programs while offering professional development opportunities to existing faculty members, according to the Rev. Warren Sazama, president of Marquette University High School.

Currently, the capital campaign has raised $12.12 million of the $22 million goal.

Those interested in contributing to the capital campaign can visit this section of the MUHS web site. There is even an online giving form for those who don't like writing checks.

Marquette High is planning a huge celebration this summer, which I plan to attend:
Anniversary Celebration Day
Saturday July 21, 2007

Open House – The MUHS Mother’s Guild will be throwing out the welcome mat and hosting a special afternoon in the school. Visitors will be able to reminisce as they walk the hallways of the school while enjoying historical displays that will be throughout the building.

Special Anniversary Mass –
What speaks to the mission of Marquette High more than a Eucharist celebration? This special Liturgy, following the MUHS open house, will be held at the Marquette University Al McGuire Center. Every Jesuit who has ever taught at MUHS, along with any alumnus who is a Catholic priest, has been invited to concelebrate. To date, we have approximately 50 priests scheduled to concelebrate at the Mass. The school is honored that Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan will be in attendance at this special occasion. Fr. Tom Doyle, S.J., is coordinating the Mass and has arranged to have Fr. Marquette’s own Chalice available for use at the Mass.

150th Anniversary Celebration –
Immediately following the Mass, the MUHS community will gather to celebrate the school’s 150th anniversary by heading down to the newest and most talked about venue in Milwaukee, Discovery World at Pier Wisconsin! Note, the celebration has been moved from the Milwaukee County Zoo to Discovery World. The entire Pier is reserved for the MUHS party where food and beverages, provided by Bartolotta’s, will be available as guests enjoy visiting and exploring the great exhibits at this interactive museum. A “front row” view of the Festa Italiana fireworks awaits us as well with the glimmering Lake Michigan as a fitting backdrop.
Readers, will any of you be there?

Thursday, February 08, 2007


Two blog carnivals provided links to my post called "Is 'Income Inequality' a Legitimate Worry?":

The first is the Carnival of the Capitalists, hosted by Mighty Bargain Hunter, was posted very early on Monday morning. Next week, TamsPalm will host this carnival.

The second is this week's Virginia Blog Carnival also featured the piece, with a special "Super Bowl" edition hosted by Cathouse Chat. Look next at The Right-Wing Liberal to find this carnival.

It's also worth mentioning that the Carnival of the Mundane, which I hosted here on December 22, is up this week at No Pasa Nada.

Speaking of carnivals, the Kennedy Center is about to open a new production of the musical play, Carnival!, which was originally presented by impresario David Merrick when it opened on Broadway almost fifty years ago. Here's the text of the press release from the Kennedy Center:

WASHINGTON, DC - The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts presents its new production of Carnival! in the Eisenhower Theater February 17 – March 11, 2007. With book by Michael Stewart and music and lyrics by Bob Merrill, the musical is directed and choreographed by Robert Longbottom and stars Ereni Sevasti as Lili, Jim Stanek as Paul, Sebastian La Cause as Marco and Natascia Diaz as Rosalie. Opening night will take place Saturday, February 24, 2007 at 7:30pm.

Based on a 1953 MGM motion picture Lili, Carnival! tells the story of Lili - a girl from an isolated village in France who joins the traveling Grande Imperial Cirque de Paris. Falling for the troupe's manipulative magician, she also enchants a disillusioned puppeteer, who can only show his love through his whimsical creations.

Winner of two 1962 Tony Awards®, Carnival! features music and lyrics by Bob Merrill, book by Michael Stewart based on material from Helen Deutsch and was originally directed and choreographed by Gower Champion. The musical made its Broadway debut at the Imperial Theatre on April 13, 1961 and closed January 5, 1963 after 719 performances. Carnival! starred Broadway newcomer Anna Maria Alberghetti, who won the Tony Award® for Best Actress as Lili; Jerry Orbach, who made his Broadway debut as Paul; James Mitchell as Marco and Kaye Ballard as Rosalie. Will Steven Armstrong was also awarded the Tony® for Best Scenic Design.

Five time Tony® nominee Bob Merrill (Composer and Lyricist) wrote the music and lyrics for Take Me Along, New Girl in Town, and Henry Sweet Henry and the lyrics for Sugar and Funny Girl. Merrill died in 1998.

Michael Stewart (Author) scored on Broadway the first time out when he won a Tony® for his Bye Bye Birdie libretto. Subsequently he was the librettist for Carnival!, and for Hello, Dolly!, which won two Tony Awards®. He also wrote the books for George M!, Mack & Mabel, The Grand Tour, and 42nd Street, both book and lyrics for I Love My Wife, and lyrics for Barnum. Mr. Stewart died in 1987.

Book revisions for the Kennedy Center production have are by Stewart’s sister, Francine Pascal, who created the Sweet Valley High series of books that has sold over one hundred fifty million copies worldwide. Pascal also worked on the revision of Mack & Mabel which played at the Goodspeed Opera House in 2004 and the Criterion in London in 2006.

In the tradition of casting a new find in the musical’s pivotal role, the Kennedy Center will present Ereni Sevasti as Lili. A New Jersey native, Sevasti has performed in The Sound of Music at Paper Mill Playhouse, and The Magic Flute at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. She has also appeared in various productions at McCarter Theatre, Avery Fisher Hall, George Street Playhouse and PNC Arts Center.

Jim Stanek (Paul) has been seen on Broadway in Lestat, A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum, The Rivals, Little Women, and Indiscretions as well as the off-Broadway and regional productions I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, Captain’s Courageous, My Fair Lady (McCarter), Threepenny Opera (Williamstown), Three Musketeers (San Jose), and Thoroughly Modern Millie (La Jolla). Along with television roles in Adversaries and Guiding Light, Stanek also appeared in the movie Borough of Kings. Stanek was most recently seen Off Broadway in Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.

Sebastian La Cause (Marco) has been seen on Broadway as Rocky in The Rocky Horror Show and in Minnelli on Minnelli, Once Upon A Mattress, and Chicago. In addition to roles in television’s All My Children, One Life to Live, and As the World Turns, he has made appearances in such movies as Chicago, Boogie Nights, Scream II, Eraser, Showgirls, and award winning short Penny Dreadful. He made his District debut in She Loves Me at Arena Stage in November.

On Broadway, Natascia Diaz (Rosalie) has performed roles in Man of La Mancha, Seussical, The Capeman, and Carousel. Along with her Off-Broadway roles in tick, tick...BOOM!, Saturday Night, and Bright Lights, Big City, Diaz’s television credits include Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, The Jury, Law & Order, Oz and Leonardo da Vinci: A Dream in Flight. Diaz made her Kennedy Center debut in A Little Night Music in the Center’s Sondheim Festival in 2002 and was most recently seen Off Broadway in Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.

Michael Arnold (Jacquot) has been seen on Broadway in productions of Jumpers, 42nd Street, Kiss Me Kate, Little Me, Cabaret, Chicago, The Who’s Tommy, and Cats. He has toured with The Who’s Tommy and Martin Guerre and is the recipient of an Astaire Award for his work with 42nd Street.

Johnathan Lee Iverson (Schlegel) began his career singing with the Boys Choir of Harlem and later became the first African American ringmaster at the age of 22 when he joined the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.

On Broadway, Robert Longbottom has directed and choreographed Anything Goes, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Side Show and Flower Drum Song, for which he was nominated for a 2003 Tony Award® for Best Choreography. On stage, he appeared in the original Broadway productions of 42nd Street, Me and My Girl, the revival of Little Johnny Jones, and the national and international tours of Oklahoma! and A Chorus Line. Longbottom directed the Kennedy Center production of Mister Roberts in 2005.

The new Kennedy Center production will feature an award-winning design team, including sets by Andrew Jackness, costumes by Paul Tazewell, lighting by Ken Billington, puppets by Edward Christie and magic by Joe Eddie Fairchild. David Chase is Music Director and Robert Billig is Associate Music Director and Conductor.

Performances for Carnival! will run Tuesday through Sunday evenings at 7:30 PM with matinee performances on Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 1:30 PM. Tickets from $25 to $90 are on sale now and are available for purchase at the Kennedy Center box office or by calling Instant Charge at (202) 467-4600. Patrons living outside the Washington metropolitan area may dial toll-free at (800) 444-1324.

Theater at the Kennedy Center is presented with the generous support of Stephen and Christine Schwarzman.

For more information, please visit the Kennedy Center website at www.kennedy-center.org.

# # #

New Lifetime Movie?

Is it just me, or does the saga of diapered astronaut Lisa Nowak sound like the rejected plot of a Lifetime made-for-cable movie?

It has all the elements of a potboiler: love triangle, obsession, catfight, violence, and space travel.

Here's the plot in a nutshell, as reported in The Washington Post:

By early Monday, Nowak had allegedly made a nonstop dash by car to Orlando to confront -- and pepper-spray -- Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman, whom Nowak perceived as a rival for the affections of astronaut William "Billy" Oefelein.

Nowak approached Shipman in disguise in an airport parking lot around 3 a.m. and tried to get into Shipman's car while carrying a steel mallet, a buck knife and a BB gun that resembled a 9mm semiautomatic handgun, according to an affidavit filed by local police. They said the BB gun was loaded with pellets and was set to fire.
It's sort of The Right Stuff meets the Long Island Lolita.

Or perhaps, keeping in mind the title of Billy Bob Thornton's soon-to-be-released film, The Astronaut Farmer, this one could be titled "The Astronaut Felon."

The Hazards of Paper

There was a terrific letter to the editor in Tuesday's Fauquier Times-Democrat, drawing attention to the flawed and hurried nature of two bills in the General Assembly, HB 2707 and SB 840, that, if passed, would have the effect of forcing all Virginia localities to discard their current voting machines and replacing them with optical scan systems.

Written by Robin Lind, who edits the newsletter of the Virginia Electoral Board Association (of which I am a member), the letter points out:

In Virginia alone, these new machines will cost an additional $30 million, for which the legislation looks to the localities for funding. In ensuing years, the cost of printing, transporting and then storing the ballots in the Clerk of the Circuit Court's office has not even been estimated.

People who champion paper ballots and optical scan tabulating machines probably have never dealt with either.

Those of us old enough to remember paper ballots know what a nightmare it was to hand count them, and how easy it was for "short-pencil men" to spoil ballots by the simple act of adding marks from graphite under their fingernails.

Those of us who have seen optical scanners choke up on automatic feeds, or under-count the ballots processed, or reject ballots for no apparent reason, have every reason to be worried about this "dream" solution.
Mr. Lind goes on to say:
The only guarantee of the integrity of the voting system is the integrity of the people involved. These are your neighbors. People who get up at 4 a.m. to make sure your poll is open at 6 .m., then work hard for the next 13 hours until the polls close at 7 p.m.

And then they have to work another hour or two to close the polls, turn in the results and return the equipment. Across the nation, their average age is between 60 and 70.

Ask them what they think of the process. Ask them what they think of their experience with touch-screen voting machines. Ask them what they think of returning to paper ballots. Ask them what they think about the dedication of their fellow poll workers and the integrity of the system.

If legislators had taken the time to query the men and women on the front line, you may be confident the universal answer would have been: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
He concludes (as I do):
We urge citizens to contact their legislators and vigorously oppose this unfortunate legislation.
My views on this issue are well-known and I hesitate to repeat myself. I want to re-emphasize one point, touched on by Robin Lind: the vast majority of electoral fraud in this country is done with paper, either at the voter registration stage or by altering or spoiling paper ballots. There is no evidence from the past two decades of using electronic voting machines that those machines have been compromised, or tampered with, to change the outcome of an election.

Check out the label "voting machines" (below) if you would like to read more of what I have had to say about voting technology.

African History Lesson

There is an odd juxtaposition of sentences in an op-ed piece in today's Washington Post.

In "400 Years After Jamestown," Stephanie Robinson of the Jamestown Project and Cornel West of Princeton University write:

It is nothing short of remarkable that the sons and daughters of those who arrived in shackles now excel in the broad range of American life.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is poised to make a legitimate, not merely symbolic, run for the presidency.
Striving to make a legitimate point about how things have changed in our country, Robinson and West also make an error of history and biography -- and geography, as well.

How? Senator Obama is not one of "the sons and daughters of those who arrived in shackles," although he certainly does "excel" in his own American life.

Barack Obama's father was born in Kenya and met the future Senator's mother when both were studying at the University of Hawaii in the 1950s. (Senator Obama's mother was born in Kansas.)

The African slave trade that sent the ancestors of today's African-Americans to this continent took place along the Atlantic Coast of Africa. Kenya, on the Indian Ocean coast in East Africa, was also the origin of some slaves, but those were bought and sold by Arab slavetraders and taken east, not west.

One might say that Senator Barack Obama is a "modern" African-American rather than a "historical" African-American. Modern, that is, in the sense of being or being descended from recent immigrants (although the Senator's father was more of a visitor than an immigrant, since he returned to Kenya after his son was born). Historical African-Americans, then, are those who can trace their ancestry to the Atlantic slave trade.

There are tens of thousands of African-Americans like Senator Obama -- recent immigrants (and their children born here) from Ethiopia, Ghana, Uganda, and other countries -- who are not descended from slaves that were brought here in the 17th, 18th, or 19th centuries. They deserve, like everyone, to be fully integrated into American society and politics. But that doesn't mean that their own histories and biographies should be misrepresented by those who should know better.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Speaking of Harry Potter ...

More news from Britain, definitely not the disappointing sort:

The final Harry Potter book is slated for release on July 21. Scholastic Corp. publishes the book in the United States, while Bloomsbury Publishing handles the book in Great Britain.
The portentous title of the seventh installment in the series is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

MediaBistro's GalleyCat adds this enticing note:
Sale of the book in all time zones is embargoed until 00:01 BST (British Summer Time) on Saturday 21st July 2007.
If past experience is a guide, there will be attempts to break the embargo.

Coincidentally, the fifth movie based on the J. K. Rowling books will be in cinemas just days before the new book is released. Reports the Associated Press:
Four hit movies already have been adapted from the Potter books. The fifth film, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," is scheduled to come out July 13, eight days before the release of "Deathly Hallows."
My understanding is that the adult version of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will be sold without a dust jacket, in tribute to Daniel Radcliffe's fast-approaching debut on the West End stage.

Disappointment from Britain

British television viewers must be crying in their tea upon reading this news, as reported in The Guardian:

Channel 4 has postponed transmission of its "wank week" programming in a bid to avoid further controversy in the aftermath of the Celebrity Big Brother racism row.

The network's short season of three late night documentaries about masturbation was to have been broadcast next month, but has now been taken out of the schedule.

They are expected to be broadcast at a later date, but it is understood they may be broadcast separately and certainly not as part of a branded wank week season.

Correspondent Jason Deans provided this brief but wistful description of what Guardian readers might be missing due to the postponement:
Wank week included documentaries about compulsive male masturbators, female masturbation, and a wankathon event held in London last year.
The question remains, however: Which American TV network will pick up the "wank week" documentaries now that Britain's Channel 4 has got cold feet? (Your suggestions are welcome in the comments section, below.) This could be a whole new arena for office pools, once the Super Bowl is finished. Can "wank week" beat the spread?

I can only imagine what kind of traffic this post will drive my way, after the flood of visitors wanting to see "Harry Potter, Shirtless."

A Penny Saved Is a Nickel Earned

An interesting proposal circulating among economists suggests that the government should "rebase" the penny and make it worth five cents, and then eliminate the nickel.

The economists point to the fact that, because the price of the metals that go into pennies and nickels has risen so rapidly in recent years, the mint loses about $40 million each year making the coins.

Writing in the New York Times on February 1, University of Chicago economist Austan Goolsbee explains that initially, proclaiming that a penny is worth 5 cents "sounds impossible":

But our coins are just tokens the government gives a value to. We can say they are worth whatever we like... the United States did something similar in 1834, when it changed the gold-silver ratio and suddenly the half-eagle $5 coin was actually worth $5.625.

Pennies would then cost a little over 1 cent to make and would be worth a nickel, so the government would again be making a profit on money. We would have plenty of new Lincoln nickels so we could stop minting our current nickels at a heavy loss. The Jefferson nickels would stay in circulation, just as the old wheat pennies do now. Because metal in nickels is valuable, though, they would probably be melted down.

Rebasing pennies is printing money. But don’t get too worried about inflation. With about 140 billion pennies in circulation ($1.4 billion) — counting the ones in your couch and your kids’ piggy banks — this rebalance would make them worth $7 billion, adding about $5.6 billion to the money supply. For comparison, at the start of 2007 there was about $1.4 trillion in currency and money available for purchases, to say nothing of credit cards.

If this proposal takes shape and is eventually adopted, we may have to abandon some idiomatic expressions, though "a penny for your thoughts" might still work -- it's just that those thoughts will be worth an additional four cents.

Is 'Income Inequality' a Legitimate Worry?

In his 1996 book, Hidden Order: The Economics of Everyday Life, polymath economist David Friedman wrote:

When a psychiatrist wants to get his audience’s attention, he talks about sex. Economists talk about the income distribution. In both cases the audience’s interest is prurient (what are other people doing?), puritanical (that they shouldn’t be?), and personal (how am I doing?). In both, there is the thrill of violating taboo; although sex is gradually becoming an accepted topic of conversation, asking how much money someone makes is still beyond the pale (p. 195).
Though asking about someone’s income is still not permitted in polite conversation, it is not forbidden in political discourse. So it should come as no surprise that congressional Democrats have made income distribution the centerpiece of their legislative program in the early days of their new majority.

Both the House and the Senate have passed minimum wage legislation, which is one way to redistribute income. (It is also a way to deny employment to poor minority youth, but that is a column for another day.)

Under the leadership of Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York), the Joint Economic Committee sponsored a hearing about income inequality in which the “bad guys” are corporate executives with generous pay packages made up of salaries, bonuses, and stock options, and the “good guys” are federal legislators claiming to look out for the poor and middle class.

The Washington Post reported on February 1, referring to testimony from Princeton University economist Alan Blinder,
"The basic story is very clear," Blinder said. "Inequality was mostly falling for 30 or 35 years or so until the late 1970s and has been mostly rising since then." He offered a vivid example: In 1979, the average taxpayer in the top one-tenth of 1 percent earned about as much as 44 average taxpayers in the bottom half. In 2001, the rich taxpayer earned as much as nearly 160 less affluent people.
Is “income inequality” something that should worry us? Even President Bush seems concerned, telling a Wall Street audience on January 31 that "income inequality is real -- it's been rising for more than 25 years” – though the larger thrust of his remarks were about how strong the U.S. economy is.

George Mason University economist Tyler Cowen put the question in perspective in a recent article for the New York Times:
What matters most is how well people are doing in absolute terms. We should continue to improve opportunities for lower-income people, but inequality as a major and chronic American problem has been overstated.
Fears about income inequality stem from a pre-modern understanding of economics, in which because some people “have,” others “have not.” In the pre-industrial, pre-capitalist world, this was sometimes true. If Midas had a lot of gold, it meant he was taking it from his subjects, who had no gold. (He and other ancient rulers used force to pry the gold from the hands of people who had genuinely earned it, through slavery and confiscation.)

But the fabled Midas hoarded his gold; he neither spent it nor invested it. The “affluent people” of Alan Blinder’s illustration both spend and invest their earned incomes. They don’t hide it under their mattresses. As a consequence, they create products that fulfill our needs and wants, hire workers, and make other people wealthy in the process – or at least more wealthy than they would have been in the absence of spending and investment.

In his influential treatise, Human Action, Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises wrote:
The inequality of incomes and wealth is an inherent feature of the market economy. Its elimination would entirely destroy the market economy.

What those people who ask for equality have in mind is always an increase in their own power to consume. In endorsing the principle of equality as a political postulate nobody wants to share his own income with those who have less. When the American wage earner refers to equality, he means that the dividends of the stockholders should be given to him. He does not suggest a curtailment of his own income for the benefit of those 95 per cent of the earth’s population whose income is lower than his (third revised edition, p. 840)
In other words, “more wealth for me, but not for thee” is the principle at play.

Redistributing unequally distributed wealth would require one of two things:

One option is passing laws that forbid businesses from paying their employees – including high-level management, rock stars, baseball players, and Oscar-winning actors and actresses – what they (the businesses) and the market think they are worth. That is, set legal ceilings on earnings.

The other option is to establish a system of confiscatory taxation that would take earnings from the person who earned it, in order to bring their income beneath an arbitrary ceiling, and give it to the government, which in turn will spend it on goods and services provided by other rich individuals and the companies they own. That is, rob Peter to pay Paul.

Commenting on the “economic consequences of confiscatory policies,” Mises wrote that
in the long run such policies must result not only in slowing down or totally checking the further accumulation of capital, but also in the consumption of capital accumulated in previous days. They would not only arrest further progress toward more material prosperity, but even reverse the trend and bring about a tendency toward progressing poverty (Human Action, third revised edition, p. 844).
Put more simply, by constricting the capacity of the affluent to create jobs and buy things, one ends up creating more unemployment and ultimately punishing the poor and middle classes.

In the recent PBS documentary film about his life, The Power of Choice, the late Milton Friedman said, “The society that puts equality before freedom will end up with neither. The society that puts freedom before equality will end up with a great measure of both.”

That is a lesson well-learned by policymakers on Capitol Hill and at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.