Thursday, December 30, 2010

2Political Episode 46

2PP046 - 29 December 2010

2Political Podcast Episode 46 is now available. You can listen to it on the widget on the right side of my blog, or you can go the podcast site, You can leave comments there as well as download or listen to any episode.

This episode was recorded on a different computer, using different settings. Needs adjustment. We begin today with something completely different: Talking about our holidays and Jason’s travel experiences leads to a wider discussion of the USA’s security theatre.

When we move onto politics, we talk about the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. We don’t have kind words for John McCain, but Arthur has a few “heroes” from the outgoing Congress. Naturally, he also calls out a wingnut Republican. Jason notes how the price of gas could affect the US’ economic recovery. We agree about the potential consequences if Republicans do what they say they’ll do.

Please leave a comment (anyone's welcome—agree or disagree!), or you can ring the 2Political comment line on 206-350-3982.

Link for this episode:
Arthur’s blog, podcasts and videos can be accessed here.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

More on Security and my flights for Christmas

I’ve been thinking about what Metro is doing with randomly checking bags. The more I think about it the silly it seems. As someone pointed out in the comments section in one of the articles, all anyone would have to do is strap an explosive vest on and then wear one of those down coats. They’d sail through any sort of check point. Is the idea the terrorists are too stupid to think of that?

As for airport security on my trip to Springfield there was a new ripple. If you have a video camera with a cassette you have to put it in its own try to go through the X-Ray machine. (This of course did not happen when I was going through security in Springfield on my way back to DC.) So here I am at the airport last Thursday. Here’s what I have to shepherd through security. I have my video camera in its own bin. Another bin has my coat, keys, wallet and change. Then I have my backpack. Next is my carry on. Finally, my shoes. I have five things I’m getting through security. I got everything on the belt the shoes being the last thing I put on there.

I walk through the scanner. I got a pat down because I had a heavy sweater on. I thought about taking it off but then there’d be one more thing to deal with. There was no full body scanner at the security check point I went through at National. So I get to the other side of the conveyor belt and wait for my stuff. Everything comes out. I’m trying to get it off the belt as fast as possible. One shoe comes through and then I wait and I wait and I wait. One of the TSA guys says not to worry it will be coming. Finally it comes through.

In general I have to say the airports were not over flowing with people. The flights were full but not completely booked solid. The flight from DFW to DCA was over weight because of the need for extra fuel. I’m assuming that was for all the wind that was on the east coast because of the storm.

For once snow and/or storms did not impact my flights to or from Springfield. There was an impact on travel in general into DC. I got to Dallas early. I looked at the monitors and noticed there was a 1:45 flight to DC. I decided to go and see if I could get on it. When I got to the gate, I looked at the list for standbys. There were 54 people listed. So much for getting on an earlier flight. I’ve never seen that many people listed for standby ever. I have to assume the vast majority of these people originally were going into Philadelphia or New York. Since getting to either of these places was not going to happen for a couple more days (for some people it won’t be until next week), people decided to get as close as they could.

I had a great time in Springfield and a really great Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bag Searches on Metro Start

Metro has launched a new program of radom “voluntary” bag searches:

The inspections over the far-flung transit network, which has 86 rail stations and 12,000 bus stops, will be conducted by several dozen officers at most. Metro’s trains and buses carry more than 1.2 million passengers every weekday, and officials acknowledge the limitations of the plan.

This from a chat from the Washington Post’s transit guy:

Q.Isn’t “Baggage Checks” a misrepresentation of what they’re doing?

From what I can gather they’re only swabbing the outside unless it turns up positive - seems to me to be a reasonably non-invasive process that would take no more than a couple of moments if, and only if, you happen to get selected. It’s not like you’re going through a TSA-style pat-down...

A. Robert Thomson :

That’s a fair statement, and I’d like to make a couple of points.

Yes, this program is somewhat different from the program announced two years ago, at least on the surface.

It starts, as I just said, with a uniformed officer with a gun and a big dog asking you if you’d like to submit to an inspection of your property. Then you’re taken over to a security table where -- at least in this morning’s version -- a federal TSA officer swabs your bag, looking for the presence of something that could be used as an explosive.

If the test is positive, they’re almost certainly going to examine the contents of your bag and question you. (What would you think of them if they didn’t do that?)

None of what I’m describing here meets my definition of “non-invasive.”

I have to say I completely agree with Thomson.

How exactly does a small handful of police officers doing this going to deter a terrorist? Seems to me all they’d have to do is send someone ahead to see if a search is happening. Have that person come back and say a search is happening and then move on to the next station. Or the terrorist could just look into the station and see if a search was happening. If a search was happening, again just move on to the next station. I like the term many people are calling this: security theater.

Also the notion this is voluntary is a joke. If you say no to the search you may be further questioned and won't be allowed to ride. So exactly how is this voluntary.

Once again I'm reminded of Benjamin Franklin's quote on freedom:
They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

I was a surprised that this got repealed. I thought, when this was voted down when attached to the defense authorization bill, DADT was done for. With the Republicans coming in next year in the House I figured it was really done for. Repeal wouldn’t happen for at least two more years if not longer.

But every once in awhile politicians and the political process can surprise you. A great deal of credit goes to Harry Reid. He could have just as easily let this matter drop but didn’t.

One of the best lines Reid used was this

“As Barry Goldwater said, ‘You don’t have to be straight to shoot straight,’ “ said Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), referring to the late GOP senator from Arizona.

And if Barry Goldwater, Mr. Conservative no less, can see how silly the policy was then anyone should see how silly it is.

More on Reid’s strategy
Recall what happened before the vote on the defense authorization bill containing DADT repeal was blocked by the GOP. Reid made a whole range of concessions to GOP moderates, bringing them to the brink of casting a Yes vote. When it became clear that Susan Collins’s procedural demands risked throwing the lame-duck session into chaos, Reid’s decision to fast-track the vote — even though vote counters knew it would not pass if he did — was roundly criticized.

In retrospect, it turns out Reid’s gamble worked. Scheduling that first vote allowed moderates the room to register their procedural objections with a No vote. As Reid knew, he could then schedule a second, stand-alone vote, giving the moderates a bit more time and maneuvering room (and another round of meetings with military leaders) to come around to the Yes camp.

There will be few bumps in the road. Any sort of trouble will be jumped on by the people opposing the policy most notably John McCain (who’s tone becomes more and more shrill everyday on every single issue). But that will pass.

More important is the soldiers who won’t be lost with DADT. With man power at a premium, with our troops stretched, DADT made no sense. With it gone it will help with both of those problems. The military in the end will better off with the policy gone. And if I do say so it’s about time.

Monday, December 20, 2010

White House Tour

I went on a tour of the White House this past Wednesday. It was amazing. Going through the White House is always incredible but having it decorated for Christmas was spectacular. There must have been at least a dozen Christmas trees. One was so large it brushed the top of one of the ceilings.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Last on the New York Trip

It’s called saving the best for last. I’m still taking in Driving Miss Daisy. Sort of like you would a good wine. Well at least that’s what I’ve told because I don’t drink wine.

This is one of the best plays I’ve ever seen. Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones were spectacular in their roles. The nuances they brought to the roles were amazing. The play starts in 1948 and ends in 1972. At the start Miss Daisy in 72 and Hoke is not much younger. The small mannerism both stars use to show that they are aging. The way they move about the stage. Their gestures and they way they talk all very gradually change over the course of the play to show they are getting older.

Two stand out scenes in the play. Miss Daisy thinks she is a 5th grade teacher again. She says to Hoke she has to find the children’s papers to grade and give back to them. She asks Hoke what he’s done with the papers. Hoke takes hold of both Miss Daisy’s arms and says very loudly there aren’t any papers. You’re not a teacher any more. If you say these things they’ll put you away. They sit down on a bench. Daisy turns to Hoke and says you’re my best friend. Hoke sort of shrugs it off. She then reaches over and grab holds of his hand and says it again you’re my best friend.

The other scene is when Miss Daisy is the nursing home. Hoke is at the house where her son, Boolie, who is packing up her possessions. Boolie says he’ll drive Hoke over to the home to see Miss Daisy. Hoke doesn’t like the fact he can’t drive any more. It makes it hard for him to see Miss Daisy. They go out to the home. Miss Daisy is in a wheel chair. From the way she carries herself and the way she talks, Miss Daisy has had a stroke. Boolie makes small talking until finally Miss Daisy says Hoke came to see her. Hoke then feeds Miss Daisy the pumpkin pie she has.

The play ends there.

They received a standing ovation. They deserved it. At the end as the audience was leaving I thought what a privilege to be able to see this play. Most of all to see two legends at the peak of their performing power.

Reviews for Driving Miss Daisy

Some of the Reviews for Driving Miss Daisy

From USA Today:
Under David Esbjornson’s graceful direction, Redgrave’s Daisy and Jones’ Hoke approach each other tentatively at first, though the potential for both discord and affection is immediately obvious. As they “drive” through John Lee Beatty’s spare, elegant set — Daisy’s cars are represented by a wooden bench and chairs and a wheel attached to a base — the tension between them is not unlike that you’d expect from a couple in a romantic comedy.

For what this staging makes plain is that Daisy is a love story, however platonic. The twinkle that’s in Jones’ eye during Hoke’s witty exchanges with Boolie (played by a predictably pitch-perfect Boyd Gaines) alternately sharpens and softens when he’s with Redgrave. Similarly, Redgrave can make Daisy almost girlish in her coyness. She then becomes childlike — as the elderly, ironically, so often are — in her later, more fragile moments.

Neither Jones nor Redgrave loses the regal bearing we have long attributed to them; rather, they channel it to suggest the dignity of seemingly ordinary characters. In doing so, they remind us that great acting can transcend not only life but art as well.

From the Wall Street Journal:
During the first part of the play, I wondered whether Ms. Redgrave, who plays Daisy in a fairly low key, was going to get upstaged in a big way by Mr. Jones. Before long, though, I figured out that what I was seeing was in fact a smart decision by a seasoned pro. The only way to “compete” against a performance as dynamic as the one being given by Mr. Jones is to come at it from a different angle, and by underplaying the idiosyncrasies of the combative, querulous Daisy, Ms. Redgrave slips out from under his long shadow and ends up making an equally deep and persuasive impression.

Mr. Gaines writes in his program bio that he is “honored to be working with these two extraordinary artists.” I admire his modesty, but there’s no need for it. As he reminded us yet again earlier this year in A.R. Gurney’s “The Grand Manner,” Mr. Gaines is one of the best stage actors we have, and it’s something to see how he takes the lesser role of Boolie and fills it with character and individuality. No, he’s not the star, but I guarantee that you’ll talk about him on the way home.

From Bloomberg:

With three great actors -- Vanessa Redgrave, James Earl Jones and Boyd Gaines -- at their apogee, the enchanting revival of “Driving Miss Daisy” is the best theater can be.

Most so-called feel-good plays are sentimental claptrap that television can manage better. “Driving Miss Daisy,” however, is art. Alfred Uhry’s play makes us feel good because it is absolutely honest, truthfully aware of the rough and the smooth of life, beautifully (not just prettily) written about real people learning as they live, caught on the wing by an author who has something very human to say.

The acting is simply superb. That is if the vast talents of the cast can be called simple. They are tried and true performers who bring ultimate artistry well beyond mere craft.

From Redgrave, it is a kind of sublime mugging and gloriously projected, perfectly Southern speech, going from chilly hauteur through sassy incandescence to bone-deep humanity.

From Jones, it is the most cannily deployed sense of volume and temperature control, of magisterially timed pauses, of irresistible laughter and unshakable dignity.

Gaines shows inexhaustible charm as the son, his very rants immensely graceful.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pop Tarts World

Finally got to Pop Tart World. The most dominate feature of the store is the Varietizer. You can select from around 72 different varieties of Pop tarts. There's also an area where you can add your own toppings to the Pop tart you've picked out. There's also key chains and magnets and cups that are Pop tart themed.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Charmin Store

Yes, there actually is a Charmin store. But they don't sell bath tissue. It's a place that has free bathrooms along with some other things as well. At the back of the store three of the walls have bathrooms. All have doors which are numbered. There's a line for the bathrooms. There's also a guy with a mic. He asks your name and where you are from. He then assigns you to one of the bathrooms and your escorted to your door.

Only in New York.

And, yes that woman is dressed up as a toilet. Like I said only in New York.

More pictures from New York

It's taking me a couple days to get all the pictures up from the New York City trip. Still have the Charmin store and Pop Tart World to do.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Avenue Q in New York

This show is very very funny. I would never thought in my life that I would see puppets simulating sex but then I saw Avenue Q. Here's the story line:

Princeton, a recent college graduate, is anxious to discover his purpose in life; but first, he must find an apartment and a job, with no work experience and an English degree. ("What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?") Beginning at Avenue A, he finally finds an affordable apartment on Avenue Q. His new neighbors are Kate Monster, a kindergarten teaching assistant; Rod, an anal-retentive Republican banker, and Nicky, his slacker roommate; Brian, an aspiring comedian recently laid off from his day job; Christmas Eve, Brian's Asian fiancée and a therapist with no clients; Trekkie Monster, a surly recluse who surfs the Internet all day in search of porn; and Gary Coleman, the building superintendent. Arguments ensue over whose life sucks the most.

Another song is Everyone's A Little Bit Racist:

Everyone's a little bit racist
Doesn't mean we go
Around committing hate crimes.
Look around and you will find
No one's really color blind.
Maybe it's a fact
We all should face
Everyone makes judgments
Based on race.

Here's a little more on how the show is set up:

Avenue Q's unique presentation requires substantially more suspension of disbelief by audience members than normal: The cast consists of three human characters and eleven puppet characters who interact as if human, Sesame Street-style. The puppets are animated and voiced by actor/puppeteers who are present, unconcealed, onstage, but remain "invisible" relative to the storyline. That is, the puppets and human characters completely ignore the puppeteers, and the audience is expected to do so as well. This can be a challenge, as puppeteering mechanics are at times complex: the same puppet may be operated by different puppeteers in different scenes, and the actor voicing the puppet may not be the one animating it. One puppeteer sometimes voices two or more puppets simultaneously.

The show is just hysterical. If you get a chance to see it do so.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

To New York

I haven't been to New York at Christmas time in 30 years. So I decided this year I'd go back. With the ease of getting up there with Megabus, there's no excuse not to go. It was well worth. I've posted many of the pictures of the incredible decorations that I saw especially Rockefeller Center. I'll be added a few more pictures and a review of the two show I saw tomorrow. But for right now enjoy the incredible pictures.

Rockefeller Center

Nothing says Christmas in New York more than a visit to Rockefeller Center.

Even More of Rockefeller Center

I just can't get enough of this place: Rockefeller Center. A couple of pictures down you'll notice the snow flakes projected on a building. That was a site. It was also an animated display so the snow flakes moved around the face of the building.

Walking Up 5th Avenue

After Rockefeller Center, I headed up 5th Avenue to see what other wonders there were to see.

More Along 5th Avenue

I kept walking along 5th Avenue heading up toward Central Park. I wanted to see the Apple Store. I actually went in for a little while but way too many people. So it was back out to see more lights.

Columbus Circle

From 5th Avenue and Central Park South I could see these lights. So I walked down that way and reached Columbus and saw these beautiful lights. Then I headed off to see Avenue Q. More about the shows tomorrow.