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March 31, 2003

Maybe he should be reading The Agonist

From the New York Times:

George W. Bush was standing three feet from his television screen in his cabin at Camp David last weekend, absorbed in every detail of the news from Iraq, when a correspondent came on to report that the president of the United States, according to White House officials, was not glued to the TV.

Mr. Bush started laughing, said his close friend Roland Betts, who was with the president at the time.

"He is just totally immersed," Mr. Betts said in an interview. Mr. Betts said that he and Mr. Bush talked of little else but the war over two days at Camp David last weekend, and that the president regularly turned in to the cable channels for updates on Iraq. When Mr. Bush saw something that concerned him, Mr. Betts said, he picked up the phone to tell Condoleezza Rice, his national security adviser who was at nearby cabin, to look into it.

("If you watch too much TV news coverage, your perspective can get warped." — Bill O'Reilly, Fox News)


Posted by abostick at 08:09 AM | Comments (0)

March 30, 2003

Online Gaming for Tiltaholics

Online gaming for money is taking a new twist, going after the demographic that thinks no-limit hold'em might as well be Old Maid, reports an AP story appearing in the Miami Herald:

Service to offer cash, prizes for online gamers

DALLAS — A new source of income — or debt — could soon be a mouse click away for PC gamers.

Players 18 years and older can win cash or prizes while playing against each other in the online World War II action game Return to Castle Wolfenstein.

It's part of a deal between YouPlayGames and two Texas companies — Even Balance, Inc. of Houston and Id Software, Inc. of Mesquite.

After registering with YouPlayGames, gamers can place their wager.

The cost of entry generally will range from a few cents to a few dollars for each kill or injury players incur on their opponents, YouPlayGames creator Chris Grove said Tuesday.

...

YouPlayGames is headquartered on the Caribbean island of Curacao in the Netherlands Antilles, just off the coast of Venezuela.


(via boing boing)

Addendum: I just took a look at the YouPlayGames home page, and noticed that the site accepts payments via PayPal. I wonder how long that is going to last? The ground shifted late last year when eBay acquired PayPal, and the latter announced that they would discontinue doing business with gambling sites.

Posted by abostick at 05:30 PM | Comments (0)

March 27, 2003

Dream Fragments

(i) We're moving, trying to clear our stuff out of the apartment. Everything is almost out, and but I notice that our DSL modem (the old one that we used in waking life for our Telocity/DirecTVInternet connection) is still hooked up, standing upright on the bedroom floor, its LEDs blinking.

(ii) (Later, after waking and falling back asleep) After a bunch of activity lost in the fog of unremembered dream, I enter the building that houses my office. I choose not to take the elevator up to the third floor, my floor, but instead walk up the stairs, along the side of the building.

I'm quite tired, and my body is sore, particularly my left side. I reach for the handrail with my left hand ... only to realize that my left hand had been amputated some weeks ago, and I still haven't accustomed myself to its loss. The mistake is too much for me, and I stop climbing the stairs. I turn around and sit on the landing, weeping, holding my face in my right hand and supporting it with my left stump.

I woke up, finding myself lying on my left side. My left leg and arm were indeed sore, from having restricted blood circulation. My left hand was intact, although for a while after waking I kept touching it to reassure myself that it was still there.

Posted by abostick at 01:19 PM | Comments (0)

When Worlds Collide

Teresa Nielsen Hayden has just blogged Steve Brust's weblog, quoting Steve's June 8, 2002, entry on his "notes for a new poker book" (for example, Chapter 4. How to prevent bad beats by always going in with the worst hand).

My personal favorite entry is this one:

Fri May 31st, 2002 8:39 AM

Yesterday I was sitting next to a drunk in the 4-8 Hold'em game at the Palms.
"What do you do?"
(Q6--muck)
"I'm a writer."
"What do you write?"
(KT offsuit--muck)
"Novels"
"What kind of novels?"
(J7--muck)
"Science fiction/fantasy."
"Oh. Uh...I know it's kind of personal, but how much do you make per book?"
(93--muck)
"Enough to make a living, not enough to date a cocktail waitress."

I know Steve quite well from the science fiction universe — Fourth Street Fantasy Conventions and Reinconations, the old GEnie Science Fiction Round Table, and so forth — but these days I feel more closely connected to him through the poker world than the world of SF fan- and prodom. I had a good, long chat with him at last year's World Series of Poker, for example; but when Debbie Notkin and I, along with Mike Ford, Elise Matthesen, Emma Bull, and Will Shetterly, were in Las Vegas for a vacation getaway a couple of weeks after BARGE in August 2001, we were disappointed that we couldn't get together with him.

Steve is a kind of triple-threat: writer, musician, and poker player, which I guess means he could quit three day jobs at once. Most recent thing of his that I've read was Freedom and Necessity (co-authored with Emma Bull); I liked it. Last I heard, Steve plays a lot at the poker room at the Palms.

Posted by abostick at 11:13 AM | Comments (0)

March 25, 2003

From the Horse's Mouth

Sean Paul Kelly's The Agonist links to a New York Times article analyzing war reporting that contains this choice snippet:

Bill O'Reilly, the Fox News Channel commentator — who is especially popular among conservatives — had some advice for his viewers. He told them not to watch too much television. "If you watch too much TV news coverage, your perspective can get warped."
Posted by abostick at 09:05 AM | Comments (0)

March 24, 2003

San Francisco, March 20, 2003 (Part II)

The restaurant Debbie proposed was the Magic Grill, at the corner of Ellis and Mason. As we walked up Market, we saw eight police officers mounted on horses, passing us in the middle of the street. The seemed to be a bad sign to us - mounted police are serious trouble in crowd situations, should things get violent.

We got to the restaurant a few minutes after 10. The TV was on, above the cash register, and was showing CNN's coverage of the newly begun bombing attack on Baghdad. We ordered breakfast, and ate it, talking about what we had seen and what it meant. I said that, based on what I had seen along Market Street, the size of the protest was larger than I had dared to hope. Deb expressed surprise at this. She marveled, instead, at how long it was lasting.

Debbie works in an office at Sixth and Market, and she had always planned to spend at least some time at her desk that day. I wasn't sure whether I would stick around in the city or head for home, but I would let her know what I wound up doing (and whether I got into trouble).

We left the restaurant and walked towards Market. The intersection at Sixth was open to cross-traffic. We spotted the mounted police again, coming back down the street. They turned off onto Fifth Street. Debbie guessed that they were carrying out some kind of flanking maneuver, and would be coming up on another street into the press of a crowd holding an intersection, perhaps the one that was gathered where Fourth, Geary and Kearney streets connected at Market.

We hurried to that intersection, anxious about possible police violence. The situation there was calm, people holding the street, A line of a few police officers presenting a token barrier between the street and the sidewalk. I kept looking down Fourth Street, waiting for the appearance of the riders, but they never came.

Debbie said goodbye, and headed off to her office, while I remained watching the development of the situation at this intersection. A phalanx of police jogged up along Fourth Street, then deployed into the intersection, herding people with their riot sticks held in both hands. They were not gentle. One of the people was a man carrying a large video camera on his shoulder. "You can't do this!" he screamed at the police. "I'm a member of the press! Brutality! Brutality!"

The cameraman, once on the sidewalk, continued to make a scene. "I'm calling your boss and telling him what you did," he yelled. He then pulled out a cell phone and made a show of calling the Hall of Justice and complaining about the treatment he had received. He described himself repeatedly as a "member of the press" but never identified what, if any, media organization employed him or ran his reports.

A man threaded his way through the crowd; he wore large stickers on his chest, back and arm that showed a red cross and the word "MEDICAL". He shouted, "Where is the person who was injured? I'm a physician!" A woman waved; she was standing on the street side of the BART station entrance in front of the Old Navy storefront. The medic squeezed between the people and went to take care of her. I couldn't see at all clearly what the trouble was, but he eventually tied an ice pack to her arm and led her out.

The police commenced the long, tedious process of arresting the people sitting in the streets, cable-tying their hands behind their backs and leading or carrying them away. (By now, the hard-core passive resisters were long since arrested, and most arrested demonstrators were led away.)

The crowd applauds the demonstrators as they are taken away, one by one. And the crowd taunts and jeers at the police: "How does it feel to work for the most corrupt police department in America?" (Not hardly; not even the most corrupt in the state!) "We don't have no steak fajitas!" (referring to a violent incident last November and its subsequent bungled coverup, which resulted for indictments for senior police leadership). "You guys are worse than the cops in New York! I'm from New York, and I know!" (Tompkins Square Park? Abner Louima? Give us a break.)

Another bunch of demonstrators came walking down Market Street to the intersection. They approached the line of police that separated the sit-in being arrested from the open street. A person with a bullhorn led the rest in chanting slogans, and also announced, "Come to Civic Center at noon. Rally at noon at Civic Center." After a couple of minutes facing the line of police, they withdrew.

The last sitting demonstrators were removed, and the police opened the intersection. "Come to Civic Center" people called. I checked the time on my cell phone; it was noon. I headed for Civic Center Plaza to check out the rally.

I followed the streets north of Market to get there, in a bit of a zig-zag. While walking along Taylor Street towards Market, in the heart of the Tenderloin, I passed two police officers wearing not riot gear but regular uniforms. They appeared to be walking a regular beat, talking to people on the sidewalk, sticking their heads into bars to see what was happening, and so on. I found it oddly reassuring to see that routine community policing was happening while the response in force to the demonstrations was taking place.

Civic Center held a crowd of people, but it wasn't jammed. I found a place to sit on the grass, near where a Buddhist peace group was sitting in meditation. I was impressed that they could do so, for the speechmaking through a PA system was remarkably loud, echoing off of the surrounding buildings. I rested for a while, half listening, half just enjoying being off my feet.

At 12:45 PM I decided that I had been in the sun long enough, and that nothing was really happening here. I walked out of the plaza towards the Civic Center BART station. The Asian Art Museum, newly reestablished in the old library building, appeared to be having some sort of opening celebration: there was a line of well-dressed people waiting to get inside. The sight made for an odd juxtaposition with the anarchy of the streets and the plaza.

As I walked toward the BART station, my phone rang: It was Debbie, telling me that "something [was] happening at Sixth and Market" and that she going down from her office to look at it closely. I told her that I'd try to meet her there.

Once on Market, heading down towards Sixth Street, I encountered some friends: Laurie, Shayin, and Marlene headed the other way. I told them where I was heading and what Debbie had told me about it. Laurie told me that they knew something was happening there, and that they might be checking it out later. We separated.

As I was walking along the sidewalk, a phalanx of police jogged down Market Street, passing me and going through the Seventh Street intersection, presumably going to whatever was happening at Sixth. I hurried after them. As I approached the corner, I called Debbie. She told me that the police had just told the people in the street that they weren't allowed to leave, and were getting set up to arrest them. The police I had seen moving ahead were standing in formation just to the southwest of the intersection.

As I made my way along the sidewalk on the northwest side of Market, approaching the corner, the police standing in formation suddenly deployed. A line of them cut across the sidewalk behind me. An officer shouted "You are not allowed to leave here!" I was caught between two lines of police with no apparent way out of the trap in which I found myself. I virtually certain that I had just been arrested.

I called Debbie once more, and quickly explained my situation. She was philosophical. I got off the phone and waited. A woman tried to walk past the police who had cut us off from the rest of the sidewalk; they gently but firmly barred her way. There was an officer wearing a cap rather than a riot helmet, holding a bullhorn — perhaps a lieutenant. I was nerving myself to approach him to ask him if I and the other people here were in fact under arrest, when he turned and pointed up Golden Gate Street, and announced through his bullhorn that we could leave the way he was pointing if we did not wish to be arrested. I took advantage of the reprieve, and walked up Golden Gate. I called Debbie yet again, and told her of my escape.

I turned onto Jones street and walked once more towards Market, which I was able to cross. I made my way yet again towards Sixth Street. Another double line of police prevented access to the intersection. I could see Debbie on the opposite corner. I called her once more, and told her I could see her, and waved at her. She said she thought she could get to me. She crossed Sixth by moving southeast past the end of the police line, but she couldn't get past the double cordon on the south corner.

The police finished taking the handful of sitting demonstrators into custody, though, and the double cordon suddenly lifted. Debbie and I were reunited. We talked about what had been happening and what each of us had seen. Laurie, Marlene, and Shayin joined us. We talked and watched the scene for some minutes. The police formed up into phalanxes. Some jogged away, others waited for their next deployment.

That next deployment came suddenly: a line across Market Street facing southwest. More police showed up to join them, filling in the line, until the officers were standing shoulder to shoulder.

The line of officers begain to advance up Market. We ducked into a storefront to get out of their way. The store's bemused owner, came up front and looked out at what was happening.

The line of police reached the storefront. The officer at the very end told the shopkeeper to drop his store's shutter. We couldn't stay there, so we got back onto the sidewalk trying to hurry to stay ahead of the police sweep. It seemed like something bad was going to happen.

What happened was this: the rally in Civic Center Plaza had evidently ended, and a significant crowd of people had marched through UN Plaza and had turned onto Market Street, heading straight towards the line of police, who were now holding position. At the head of the marchers was a line of safety monitors wearing day-glow open-weave vests, like those worn by road construction crews. The marchers came up to the police line and halted. There was lots of noise: chanted slogans, drumbeats, whistles, horns blown, cheering. But there was tension in the air, and it grew thicker with each passing minute.

I looked up Market Street and tried to guess how many people were there. My best (untrained) estimate was something on the order of three thousand marchers.

The tension grew. This was the kind of situation that could end in violence, either by a cop losing his cool and starting swinging, or by a demonstrator losing his cool and throwing things at the cops. It didn't look good, and we were right in the middle of it.

To my complete and total surprise, and to the discomfiture of the police, the marchers turned around and withdrew! I have never seen anything like it. The line of safety monitors quickly ran to the side and towards the other end of the march. Space opened up between the marchers' rear and the line of police. Most importantly, though, the thread of serious violence had dissipated.

After a couple of minutes of confusion, the police began to advance once more. The marchers had come to another halt — perhaps they had encountered another line of police in the other direction (I never saw one way or the other). People milled around, confused. Debbie and I and our friends thought it would be a very good idea to get out of there, if we could. We made our way through the crowd across Market to Jones Street, and went around back up to Sixth.

Debbie wanted to go back to her office briefly to pick up her things, and I went with her. I sat on a couch by her cubicle while she attended to a last-minute job that had been left on her desk. When she had finished, we went once more into the unruly streets.

It was more of the same — demonstrators holding intersections, police arriving, demonstrators being arrested, demonstrators moving on to another intersection — but the energy level seemed to be flagging. Or perhaps it was our own energy level. We walked towards Civic Center and watched for a while as the troop of mounted police we had been seeing all day faced across McAllister Street, confronting a line of demonstrators lined up across Leavenworth. That situation was actually quite calm, so we moved back towards Market. Another group arrest was in progress at Jones and Market. We watched as a young man tried to run through the line of police blocking the curb. An officer grabbed him. The sergeant shouted, "Let him go, let him go!" and the officer released the young man. The young man seemed determined to get into trouble, as rather than fleeing he went back into the intersection.
Two officers detained him, and he made a substantial fuss. "I'm not resisting, I'm not resisting," he yelled as he was marched along, his hands cuffed behind his back.

Our own energies were flagging. It was 3:00 PM, and we had both seen enough. Supposedly there was to be a rally at Hallidie Plaza, where Powell Street meets Market, at 5:00 PM, but I had been on my feet for eight hours, and we were both ready to go home. We made our way to the BART station without incident, and took the next train.

Posted by abostick at 12:25 AM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2003

The Agonist

Sean Paul Kelly is obsessively following developments in the war as they happen, so that you don't have to. Read snippets of info, with links, or check out the regularly updated situation map.

Posted by abostick at 11:28 AM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2003

Display the Constitution

Tom Digby sent around the following email (and then later gave me permission to blog it):

If you're concerned that civil liberties may suffer unnecessarily in the name of "security", or that Bush & Company are otherwise overstepping their authority, here's a way you might show that concern to the public: Display the Constitution.

The President's oath of office includes a promise to "... preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Many oaths of office for lesser positions include similar language. Thus any argument that being concerned about the Constitution is "un-American" won't be very persuasive. The Constitution is perhaps the most American thing there is.

You might want to display it as a photo-reproduction of the first page, with the prominent "We the People" headline. Even if people can't read the rest, most Americans should recognize it as being the Constitution. A JPEG image of that first page is available as a link from:
http://www.archives.gov/exhibit_hall/charters_of_freedom/constitution/constitution.html

Here's the same URL broken into two chunks you can paste together (no spaces or anything) if the full thing doesn't survive emailing:

http://www.archives.gov/exhibit_hall/charters_of_freedom/
constitution/constitution.html

You could print the image out on a full page and put it in an outside window. Or maybe print it postage-stamp size and wear it as a button or badge.

If you don't like the idea of displaying a bunch of handwriting that can't be read easily, then display the Preamble (the paragraph that starts out "We the People ...") in some readable typeface. That pretty much sums up what the Constitution is all about. The text is linked from that same page. Or here it is:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

I would recommend against displaying just the Bill of Rights by itself. That would be much more open to argument, especially in times of peril, than the whole Constitution (or something like the first page or the Preamble that symbolizes the whole Constitution) would be.

If you think this is a good idea, spread the word in the appropriate forums.


-- Tom Digby 15:24 03/20/2003

Posted by abostick at 01:28 PM | Comments (0)

San Francisco, March 20, 2003 (Part I)

My partner Debbie and I left our house at 6:30 AM to walk to the Ashby BART station, and immediately encountered neighbors from up our street, also obviously heading for demonstrations. We walked and talked together, but just a little bit too slowly for we missed the 6:40 train, and had to wait fifteen minutes for the next one. The train was not full. A significant fraction of the passengers were obvious demonstrators.

We got out at the Embarcadero station, and were on the street at about 7:15. We walked along Market Street towards where Sutter and Sansome streets intersected. We passed a line of empty Muni buses as we approached, a sign that the street blockages had already begun.

We had chosen this intersection because acquaintances of ours, fellow participants in a weekly workshop that had met the night before, had told us that this was where their affinity group was acting. And there they were: two lines of people seated in the street, their arms encased in tubes connecting them. More people sat in the street, blocking access to the chained lines of demonstrators. A line of police officers in full riot gear stood between the sidewalk and the demonstrators, but there were not enough of them to deny access to the street in anything more than a token manner.

Another two lines blocked off the other end of the intersection. The people we knew were chained across Market Street in the further line, at the southwest end of the intersection, and it was to them that we made our way.

Anger was in the air, and tension - the authorities could not possibly remove this human obstruction without either the cooperation of the chained demonstrators or using some sort of heavy equipment. But it was also festive. A brass marching band, about a dozen strong, came by and performed. A lot of people had drums and whistles. People in the open intersection danced to the music.

The organizers had set up a loudspeaker, and a young woman was speaking to the crowd through a wireless microphone. It was mostly slogan-chanting: "Stop the war against Iraq; the world says no!" "The People united will never be divided!" (I had always heard this in the past as "defeated", not "divided".) "Ain't no power like the power of the people, 'cause the power of the people don't stop!" and so on.

At the other end of the intersection, where the demonstrators appeared to come from one of the more hard-core radical elements behind the organized anti-war movement, a common slogan was "No justice, no peace!" I thought this was the wrong slogan for the moment. This particular slogan usually is meant as a kind of bargaining threat: if you don't give us justice, we won't give you peace. At this moment, though, peace is one of our demands. The most charitable interpretation of the slogan now is one of description of our predicament, in that we have neither justice nor peace; but I don't think this is what the chanters had in mind. These demonstrators had placed a sign reading "Free Palestine", with a Palestinan flag design, n the front window of the empty bus at the head of the queue of stopped buses.

Looking up and down Market Street, I could see blockages at other intersections, in both directions. The woman with the microphone told of closures at Van Ness and Fell streets, at the corner of Powell and Bush (this inspired a mocking cheer), and at the Federal Building. It began to be clear that more was happening than in this particular location. As yet, I had no real indication of how big things had gotten, as a demonstrator's announcement had to be considered hearsay, little better than rumor.

A phalanx of police officers arrived in formation from the southeast along Market. The woman with the microphone invited the people on the sidewalk to show their support by standing in the street by the chained and seated demonstrators. I got off the sidewalk in response, but Debbie asked me something I couldn't hear. I returned to the sidewalk to speak with her; she wanted to know what I wanted from her in case I was arrested. I answered, "Bail me out...," and we began to discuss the implications.

The police suddenly moved into the intersection, along the edges at the sidewalk. They quickly and effectively cleared the street of people, herding them with their riot sticks held in both hands like bumpers, leaving only the chained demonstrators and the people seated alongside to shield them.

One officer lost control, and began swinging his riot stick, beating the person who was trying not to be herded. The crowd roared. People took snapshots and recorded the beating with video cameras. I began to shout at the offending officer and the other police, "The whole world is watching! The whole world is watching!" The crowd took up the chant. The beating victim escaped to the sidewalk. The police fell into position in lines on either side of the street, along the sidewalk, to stand between the crowd and the seated and chained demonstrators. Out of breath, I stopped chanting, and discovered that the woman with the microphone had taken it up and was continuing to chant along with the crowd. The moment passed, and the situation evolved into the next phase of quiet stability.

Now began the long, slow process of arresting people and taking down the chain of demonstrators. People on the sidewalks were deemed legal; people in the street were violating the law and considered under arrest. A fire engine approached along Market from the southeast. Another phalanx of police in riot gear marched onto the scene. The police took one demonstrator at a time out of the group, secured his or her hands with plastic cable-tie handcuffs, and walk or drag him or her to the holding pen that had been set up on the corner where Sansome met Market. Many of the demonstrators resisted passively, requiring that at least two officers drag them - typically a third would carry the demonstrator's feet.

Every time a demonstrator was walked or dragged away, the crowd applauded. I remarked to Debbie that it was rather like the final table of a major poker tournament, where the players are applauded by those remaining, and the spectators, as they bust out.

At length, the unattached, seated demonstrators had been hauled off, and firefighters wielded saws to cut the pipes and chains joining the rest. We were afraid, as we watched, that someone's arm would be cut by the saws, but both the demonstrators and the authorities were in fact quite careful. The pipes were long enough that there was plenty of room to cut without getting near anyone's arm; and the firefighters took advantage of this. One by one, the pipes were cut, and then the chains inside them, and another demonstrator was taken away. "This is what democracy looks like!" chanted the woman with the microphone, as the saw cut through the pipes, orange sparks spraying onto the street.

The woman with the microphone, who had continued to speak, chant slogans, and sing to the crowd while all this was going on, remarked on how nice it was of the police to hold the intersection for us, doing a much better job than we could ever do.

Debbie chatted with one of the police officers in the line in front of us on the sidewalk. He said he was actually having a good time, that he was glad everyone was behaving themselves and being respectful. (He must have a thick skin, because he surely heard the anti-cop jeering that came from time to time from the crowd on the sidewalk.) He didn't like it, though, he said, when people had to be dragged away instead of walking.

The line of demonstrators was completely removed at last, and the police and firefighters moved on to the twin chains at the other end of the intersection. There the chained protesters lay flat on their backs to interfere with the cutting procedure.

And while all this was going on, people had gathered the street outside of the police line where the arrests were taking place. When the last chained protesters were removed, the police lined up to sweep the street and began to advance. The people in the streets fell back and returned to the sidewalk.

At this point it was about 9:00 AM. Debbie and I were both feeling like we should see what else was going on, so we walked up along Market Street, towards the next occupied intersection, at Montgomery and Post streets. There, the streets had been obstructed with overturned trash cans and newspaper racks. A group of six demonstrators had their hands linked together in the same pipes into a ring, and were dancing in a circle in the middle of the street. A planter holding a small evergreen tree had been dragged into the middle of the street. At Sutter and Sansome there had been no evidence of blocked traffic, except for the empty buses. Here, however, Montgomery Street was filled with cars trapped by the action, waiting for the time that the intersection could be cleared and they could drive on through. Debbie and I encountered our friends Laura and Michelle, and we all discussed what we had been doing and seeing.

Further up the street, where Geary, Kearny, and Third streets met, a large truck stretched all the way across Market Street. We couldn't tell if it were trapped there, or whether the driver had deliberately stopped it there as part of the action. We walked up to see, and saw that the police had just finished clearing obstructions, and the truck was ready to go. The driver looked philosophical, still no indication of whether he was there by choice or by circumstance. As he drove off, some of the people on the sidewalk shouted to the driver, "You are a hero!" indicating that they, at least, thought that he had blocked the street intentionally.

After walking back towards Montgomery, where the ring of chained people had disappeared but protestors still held the intersection, we parted company with Laura and Michelle. Debbie proposed having breakfast at a coffee shop she liked, and I liked the idea. The others demurred at the idea of spending money in the city on a day that was supposed to be anything but "business as usual". We each draw our own lines where we think they belong.

Posted by abostick at 01:06 PM | Comments (2)

March 20, 2003

Protest creates gridlock on SF streets

Excellent coverage in the SF Gate of the demonstrations and direct actions in San Francisco on the morning after the beginning of the war, written by Nanette Asimov, Kevin Fagan, Jim Herron Zamora, Matthew B. Stannard, Chronicle Staff Writers:

12:30 P.M. PST -- Waves of anti-war protesters made good on their promise to disrupt downtown San Francisco this morning, as they occupied intersections throughout the Financial District, South of Market and Civic Center, preventing buses and cars from navigating the streets.

Demonstrations began with sunrise and heated up rapidly after 7 a.m., as groups of protesters fanned out to locations they had selected over the previous several weeks.

As of 3:00 PM, protest actions were still going on, and portions of Market Street remained closed to traffic. Organizers' leaflets promised more rallies and actions continuing around the clock.

Eyewitness report to follow.

Posted by abostick at 04:53 PM | Comments (2)

March 19, 2003

Bugs, Mister Rico!

Elaine Sciolino writes in the Web edition of the New York Times, March 19, 2003:

Spy Devices Found at European Headquarters

PARIS, March 19 — The European Union has uncovered a bugging operation aimed at 5 of its 15 member countries, the organization said today.

Listening devices were found late last month in a headquarters building that houses the offices of the French, German, British, Austrian and Spanish delegations, officials said.

"This equipment, which is assumed to be of hostile intent, is currently being examined in order to determine whether it may have resulted in breaches of privacy or possible damage," a European Union statement said. "A full investigation is under way in cooperation with the member states involved."

Posted by abostick at 05:36 PM | Comments (0)

Waiting for the 6,000-Pound Precision-Guided Shoe to Drop

My sense of how the world works tells me that the attack will begin at or shortly after 5:00 PM PST today. The air assault for the Gulf War began at about 1:00 or 2:00 PM PST, as I recall, but despite the Shrub's bluster I don't see any percentage in commencing operations earlier than the expiration of the deadline, even though Saddam Hussein has already rejected the Shrub's ultimatum.

The lesson I personally learned from the Gulf War is that CNN Is Not My Friend. One can make oneself completely crazy by compulsively following the news coverage waiting for the war to start, not to mention the continuous coverage of the actual combat, all of it full of fear and alarm but conveying only the sketchiest factual information. But I want to know when the attack begins.

My compromise right now is to keep KPFA on the radio. Bless them, they have been playing their regular music programming (although now, at the noon hour, they've put on the radio equivalent of a talking-heads show). I'm confident that they will give me the information I need when I need it, but not make me crazy in the meanwhile.

There's nothing quite like kicking ass in a poker game to get your spirits up. I spent about forty-five minutes on PokerStars, playing in a couple of high-low-split seven-card stud games, at the 1-2 and 2-4 level. One rocket scientist in the 1-2 game called me a "fool" for jamming with my low lock into an obvious high hand when we were head-up. (What part of "freeroll" don't you understand?) And while he was carrying on about how I was only feeding the rake Albert Einstein went to town with the starting hand of (7d 10c) 7c. He backed into his flush to win half a pot; I was completely out of the hand. With enemies like these, who needs friends?

But it was in the 2-4 game that made my hour. I was dealt a pair of aces with a suited baby kicker in two consecutive hands. The first time, my aces were hidden, and I got three-bet by the bring-in when I reraised another ace's raise. I capped the third-street betting, and I caught another low card in my suit on fourth, and got four bets into the pot from the other three players. The outcome of the hand was that I made my flush and an eight low, but a better low took the low half, so I had to settle for doubling up. The second time, it was the same story, except that I kept catching low, finishing with a single pair of aces (losing to two pair) but a 65 for low, splitting another huge pot. Yeah, I got lucky, but the real luck was getting that kind of action for my good hands. Between the two games, I made $120 in three quarters of an hour — small beer at real stakes, but at the 2-4 level it's a pretty serious win.

So I logged off and went downstairs to change the laundry, and by the time I came upstairs again I was really feeling my oats, feeling my strength. These are dark times, and I'm going to need all the strength I can get, once the storm breaks. Why bother joining what sounds to me like a chorus of impotent liberal dittoheads who trash Nader voters and planners of direct actions? I can express my rage productively, at the poker table!

Posted by abostick at 12:48 PM | Comments (0)

Bordered in Black

Teresa Nielsen Hayden has blogged the obituary in the Herald-Mail of Hagerstown, Maryland, for Harry Warner, Jr.

For decades, essentially everyone in science fiction fandom who published an issue of their fanzine could rely upon receiving a letter of comment from Harry Warner. He was a fannish icon, and his letters were part of the glue that held the community together.

He wrote two histories of science-fiction fandom, All Our Yesterdays, covering the 1940s, and A Wealth of Fable, which covered the 1950s. For the tiny handful of people who cared about fanhistory, these were essential texts.

In his long life, he made a difference that was felt by many people around the world. I salute his passing.

Posted by abostick at 07:58 AM | Comments (0)

March 18, 2003

The Lamps Are Going Out

The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.

(Sir Edward Grey, British Foreign Secretary, August 3, 1914)

Posted by abostick at 10:38 PM | Comments (0)

March 17, 2003

Activist Dreams

3-13-03: A Relief Worker in Amaz

I'm part of a team of relief workers in a middle-eastern country. I arrive on the scene of some kind of massacre in a refugee camp — many inhabitants of the camp were killed in some kind of poison gas attack. My role in the relief work is to talk to as many people as I can to find out what happened and what they think needs to be done. Officials from many countries are interested in this work. I encounter an official from the Egyptian foreign ministry, and I invite him to our next group meeting. He is very cordial, but I know his politeness and bonhommie covers a dislike of me and my group and hostility towards the work we are doing.

There is enormous disagreement about what needs to be done. Survivors of the attack and other and their sympathizers want the attack site converted into a memorial park for the dead victims. Other people want to put this terrible experience behind us all, forget it and move on. My group tends to be sympathetic with the refugees.

My work is to spend time alone with the person I'm meeting, interviewing them. An interview is arranged with a survivor of the attack, who turns out to be an American who had been living with the refugees in their camp at the time. For some reason it is very important that he be gotten out of the country without any government officials knowing that he is in fact an American. After he tells me his story, I arrange to have him smuggled out of the camp in the trunk of a car.

I continue my interviewing work, talking to everyone — people in the camp, government officials, other people in my team, reporters, local farmers, and so on. The head of our project, a middle-aged woman psychologist from Luxembourg, arrives in her car, a Deusenberg. She wants to me to show her around the camp. I escort her around, pointing things out, telling her what has been happening, what the team has been doing.

We encounter one of our teammates, a clean-cut American named Charles. The project head asks me if I had been able to spend time with Charles, clearly intending to arrange it if I hadn't. (Charles is quite busy and notoriously difficult to schedule time with.) "Oh, yes," I tell her, "Charles and I had a very good talk."

"Really?" she says. "How long did you have to wait to see him?"

"All my life," I answer.

3-17-03: The Activist as Action Hero

My dream last night came in three parts.

The first part is largely unremembered, but in it a young man went to Seattle to do something important. All I remember is seeing an advertisement for the Seattle football team, promoting community support after the team was trounced by the Detroit team in a seven-game stand. I saw this billboard while driving across the Aurora Avenue Bridge.

In the second part of the dream, the young man had been arrested, through some kind of treachery, and was facing a hearing before the city council to determine his fate — he might be put to death. I made my way into the council chamber to see what I could do to salvage the situation.

It transpired that the charges against him were based on lies and slanders passed about by a councilwoman, a blonde woman named Ortran. I denounced her as a liar and revealed the charges to be a fabrication. The young man was almost free to go except for one detail.

Another councilmember asked, "But what can we do about the threat of something-or-other?" (the pretext under which the young man was arrested).

I answered, "I'm sure you can rely on Ms. Ortran to stalwartly defend against that." There was some irony in my statement, but also an acknowledgment that Ortran had a genuine and important role to play.

In the third part of the dream, I was leaving the council chambers, noticing the city police officers standing guard on corners, relaxed now that the civic crisis was over.

Suddenly their radios crackle and they come to full nervous alert! There's a hostage situation developing on the other side of the building.

I race around the building and make my way through the crowd.

Ortran has taken a policewoman hostage. Holding the officer with one hand, with the other she holds the barrel of a high-powered sniper's rivle to the officer's throat. If anyone makes a move, Ortran will kill her.

The police are helpless. It's a standoff. Ortran demands that the young man be brought out to her, presumably so she can kill him.

I whisper to the policeman in front of me, "Give me your gun! Give me your gun!" He pulls it stealthily out of its holster and passes it back to me.

Concealed by the crowd, I have a chance of getting one shot off at Ortran. It has to count, in order to save the policewoman's life.

I get a chance at a clean shot and let it pass. Then another. I am afraid that the pistol I am holding isn't accurate at this range. I could fire and miss (or hit a bystander) and Ortran will kill the officer.

It has to be done — but while I steel my resolve and wait for the next clear shot, I awaken.

Posted by abostick at 06:06 PM | Comments (0)

Theatrical Striptease

We went to Berkeley Rep this evening, "we" being Debbie and I, joined by Lori Selke and Steven Schwartz, as well as Kimberly and Shannon Appelcline. Tonight's play was Fräulein Else, "translated and adapted" by Francesca Faridany from the novella by Arthur Schnitzler, part of Berkeley Rep's more experimental and adventurous Parallel Season.

When Scott Marley commented on Suddenly Last Summer, Berkeley Rep's current Main Stage production, he described what he called the Striptease, the slow buildup of suspense in advance of some revelation or event as a means of holding the audience's interest. Early in Fräulein Else, we become aware that we are watching such a striptease. Else, a nineteen-year-old guest at a resort in the Alps, played by the playwright, is anxiously awaiting a special-delivery letter from her mother. There is a delay, and she is frustrated — and then she postpones reading it, and her reading is drawn out, and it takes a while for the truth to be told and Else's predicament to be revealed.

Scott warns that such stripteases must not be drawn out too long, lest even the most stunning revelation be reduced to anticlimax. This was not a problem here; I felt like I had recognized the dramatic device without having been abused by it.

Then, to my surprise, the process repeated itself, both as a critical metaphor and as an actual striptease! At the play's climax approaches, the audience is tormented with the question of "Will she do it? And what precisely will she do?" And then she does, in a manner surprisingly different from what we are led to fear, tear her robe off and walk naked on the stage, provoking sudden chaos among the other characters.

Schnitzler was one of the pioneers of writing the stream of consciousness, and Faridany's adaptation conveys this phenomenally well. It's a tour-de-force of writing and performing, backed by excellent direction and set design. It's the first fully satisfying performance in Berkeley Rep's 2002-03 season.

Kimberly Appelcline had her reaction to the play up on her LiveJournal before I even began my own blog entry; but Debbie and I had the oh-so-onerous task of entertaining Steve and Lori afterwards. (Don't throw me in that briar patch!)

Posted by abostick at 12:48 AM | Comments (2)

March 14, 2003

National Review Warns of the Looming Specter of Polyamory

Elf Sternberg calls attention to this column by Stanley Kurtz in National Review Online:

Almost unnoticed, a court case of immense cultural importance has been filed in Canada. The case, which asks that full legal recognition be granted to three parents of a single child, gives the clearest indication yet of the real impact that gay marriage will have on the American family.

A lesbian couple from London, Ontario has asked a Canadian court to simultaneously recognize the two of them (the biological mother and her partner), as well as the biological father, as legal parents of a young boy. Rather than turn to an anonymous sperm donor, the women in question asked a friend to father their child. The father does not live with the couple and child, but is nonetheless treated as a member of the household. ...

[T]he biggest danger here is that legalized triple parenthood opens the way to legalized polygamy or polyamory (sexually based group marriage). Although in this particular instance, the relationship does not appear to be sexual (except for the initial conception), once a legal precedent for multiple parenthood has been set, it will be impossible to deny recognition to sexually bonded groups (whether heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, or a mixture of these). And just as gay adoption has set a legal precedent for gay marriage, so will group parenthood pave the way to group marriage.

Yet ... group marriage is inherently unstable in a Western cultural context. So legalized polyamory means still another radical increase in the difficulties of children. And polyamorists (not to mention polygamists) are already organized and ready to take advantage of any opening in the law. (Just try running a Google search on "polyamory.")

Once we cross the border into legalized multiple parenthood, we have virtually arrived at the abolition of marriage and the family. The logic of gay marriage leads inexorably to the end of marriage, and the creation in its place of an infinitely flexible series of contracts. Monogamous marriage cannot function if it is just one of many social arrangement. Marriage as an institution depends for its successful functioning upon the support and encouragement that the ethos of monogamy receives from society as a whole. If anything can be called a marriage — including group marriage — then the ethos of monogamy that keeps families together will have been broken, and the social reinforcement that is the essence of marriage itself will be gone. Again, it is children who will pay the price.

Apparently, heterosexual monogamous marriage is so unattractive, unappealing, and unpleasant that only the absence of an alternative makes it viable at all! One wonders if Kurtz has ever actually been married.

According to Kurtz, what holds families together is the "ethos of monogamy." That's odd, I always thought that love had something to do with it — love between the adult partners, and love of the adults for the children.

It's worth noting that polyamory is in no way an issue in the petition of the three adults seeking recognition as the parents of the child. It's a bee in Kurtz's bonnet, something he sees as so obviously outlandish as to be the absolute proof that gay marriage is a real true threat to Marriage (a sacred institution so important that Kurtz insists that it rely on the force of active, ongoing government intervention to maintain it).

I don't think I've ever been a boogeyman before. Perhaps I should examine my forehead for horns in my bathroom mirror.

Posted by abostick at 06:08 PM | Comments (0)

This Is No Game....

Greg Costikyan came home from the Game Developers Conference in high dugeon:

A Specter Is Haunting Gaming

The mood at the Game Developers Conference this year was, fundamentally, one of despair. To even the blindest apologist for the silly, if monstrous, construct the game industry has become, the handwriting on the wall was clear. Ten years ago, you could find a dozen publishers to pitch to; today, perhaps five. And of the remaining, half are on their last legs: the Vivendi Universal game group will almost certainly be in someone else's hands by the end of the year, Infogrames is fucked, Activision is screwed, 3DO is tottering, Acclaim is in dire straits. The only companies with evident strength are the manufacturers--Sony and Nintendo and Microsoft (included on this list not because they make any money in games, but because they have deep pockets)--and EA, despite the fact that it has utterly failed to make a go of online gaming which, two scant years ago, they claimed was the future. (And it is, but EA is too fucking stupid to listen to those of its employees who understand how online gaming works, and instead try to make it work like its sports game franchise. Which it doesn't and never will.)

Costikyan laments the surviving game publishers' flight to the relative safety of licenses, franchises, and sequels, and warns that it is the independent developers, losing access to publishing and distribution channels in the course of the industry's meltdown, who are the source of the innovation and new thinking that generate hits.

His manifesto generated a storm of commentary, as has his followup postings here, here, here, and here.

I'm not much of a gamer to speak of, and most of what I know about the world of game development I've learned vicariously from my partner Debbie's experiences working with Eric Goldberg and Crossover Technologies (later Unplugged Games). Yet the little I know is enough to make this heated discussion fascinating to me.

Posted by abostick at 04:22 PM | Comments (0)

March 11, 2003

Lou Krieger & Betting Patterns

"There hasn’t been all that much written about betting patterns," writes Lou Krieger in the current issue of Card Player, "but it’s something every top-notch poker player thinks about from time to time."

Lou is absolutely right on both counts. An understanding of betting patterns is a key to unlocking the mysteries of hand-reading. And there's damned little written about it in poker books.

The best thing I've read about betting patterns is a post to Usenet newsgroup rec.gambling.poker by Tad Perry. Tad's focus is on how to bet to get the most out of your winners and lose the least with your losers. He gives a few examples, and summarizes a strategy for use in head-up play against an aggressive opponent. Tad looks at betting patterns as tactical tools.

Lou Krieger, in his column, appears to be more interested in betting patterns as sources of information — information for you about your opponents, and information about you for your opponents.

Let’s begin, Lou writes, by examining the most common pattern you’ll find in a hold’em game. It goes like this: call, bet, bet, check. That’s simple, isn’t it? You’ve seen your opponents do this all the time. You probably do it yourself. You call the blinds before the flop, catch a hand you like — something like top pair with a good kicker — so you bet the flop and the turn, but when you fail to improve to three of a kind or two pair, you decide to check the river to save a bet just on the odd chance that you’re beaten.

Guess what? By analyzing, or at least becoming aware of betting patterns, you’ve just picked up a small leak in your game. You’re leaving money on the table. Do you see it? Most of the time, the river card is not going to promote your opponent’s hand to one that’s better than yours, as long as you had the best hand going to the river. Sure, there will be times when you’re facing three or four opponents, two suited cards flop, and your opponents passively call while you do the betting on the flop and turn. It looks like at least one of them is on a flush draw, doesn’t it? And maybe he is. If a third suited card jumps out of the deck on the river, you certainly have my permission to check as long as your opponents act after you do. But if you have the luxury of acting last, go ahead and bet. You’re likely to be safe, not sorry, if you do.

Lou has a point here that this common betting rhythm says a lot about the quality of one's hand. But I think he is missing, or at least sidestepping, the point of checking on the end instead of betting.

A majority of the time, an opponent's hand is not going to be improved by the river card, true. But the question is, is she going to call your bet on the end if she hasn't? With what sort of hand is she going to call you down?

A case in point is in hold'em if that third flush card falls on the river. Lou is absolutely right that most players who make their flushes on the end will bet out, in order to get that extra bet (because checking top pair to a flush board on the end is so common). But suppose your hand is Kc Qd, the board is Qh 7h 4c 2s Jh, and your opponent checks to you. That heart jack on the river doesn't appear to have made her a flush, but she may very well have rivered two pair. She could easily be afraid of betting this hand into you, for fear that you have made a flush, but will happily check and call down your river bet.

As anyone who has read The Theory of Poker should understand what goes into the decision of betting on the river. It doesn't matter that your action on previous rounds has been call, bet, bet. You are leaving money on the table if and only if a bet on the end wins more money, on average when the situation is repeated many times, than it loses. You should bet when your hand is a favorite to win when called. Not when it is the favorite to be the best hand, but when it is the favorite to be the best hand against a hand with which your opponent will call.

Now I will freely admit that in a loose low-limit game your opponents are going to call you down with some amazing holdings, "just to keep you honest." In a game like that, betting top pair with a good kicker on the end is virtually mandatory. But as the skill level of your opponents increases, you need to fine-tune your own sense of when to bet on the river and when to check.

Lou also examines the pattern of call, check-and-call, check-and-raise, bet that is usually the signature of someone's holding a very strong hand. He's right on the money here. Read about it yourself.

Lou scratches the surface, and Tad digs a little bit deeper. But both of them only introduce the basics of a subtle subject. You are going to have to work some details out for yourself if you really want to improve your game by understanding betting patterns. That's the next jump in poker skill for book-reading players: moving beyond the books to creating your own poker expertise that perhaps no one else shares.

Posted by abostick at 12:14 PM | Comments (0)

Yahrzeit

Two years ago today my mother, Sheila Livingstion Bostick, died. My partner Debbie and I were with her when she passed, in her room in the Hospice of the Central Coast, in Monterey, California, in the early morning hours.

After we slept, we checked our email and learned that our friend Jenna Felice had died only a few short hours before, although a continent away.

Two candles are burning right now on the table in our living room, in front of the window that faces the street.

Posted by abostick at 08:44 AM | Comments (0)

March 10, 2003

This Morning's Dream

Debbie and I and some other friends are scuba-diving in a warm tropical lagoon. We are swimming around a sunken ship. (In my mind, it was the Prinz Eugen, in Kwajelein Lagoon, but it was more like the Japanese freighter my father and I once explored in Truk Lagoon.) Here are interesting fish, typical inhabitants of a coral reef. There is the boat's single small gun on its bow. And over there is a dangerous-looking fish: a long thin creature, like an eel, swimming through the open water in a sinuous ribbon. (Here, perhaps, is where my conviction that the ship is the Prinz Eugen came from. While diving by that ship in Kwaj Lagoon with my father, a five- or six-foot shark swam quite close to us, although seemingly ignoring us.) We should get back to the surface and out of the water now.

The others go up ahead of me. on ahead. I'm taking care to breath carefully, exhaling as I ascend to prevent embolisms, watching the giant eel swim past. I ascend slowly, out of concern for decompression and the bends. At length I reach the surface and swim over to the boat, where the rest of the party is already on board. I cling to the ladder, take off a flipper, and toss it over the side onto the boat. Debbie laughs and says, "That's dirty!" and tosses it back to me, while I'm taking the other flipper off. "Hey!" I answer, "don't throw them back, I don't want to lose them over the side!" I toss both flippers into the boat, and then my facemask, and start climbing up the ladder into the boat.


Posted by abostick at 10:10 AM | Comments (0)

March 09, 2003

Today's Quote

A writer, from time to time, trips up on the convolutions of his own literary intestines and falls flat; can't move, can't write. That happened to me because of the machinations of a maverick senator. His hi-jinks struck me in a special way. Think of Asimov's dictum that there are three kinds of science fiction: What if—, If Only—, and If This Goes On. My preoccupation has always been the latter, and applied to what I saw was happening in the country, I was terrified, not so much by the actual, but by the potential, all of which became very real to me. Where it stalled my writing machine was my feeling that though I had a large-caliber typewriter, I was using it only to entertain, and I couldn't think of a way to use it where it might do some real good.

Horace [Gold] called me one day, concerned, and I spilled the whole thing to him. He said, "Well, I'll tell you what to do. Write me a story about a guy who goes to the bus station to pick up his wife; she's been away for the weekend. And the bus comes in and the place is suddenly full of people. And across the crowd he sees his wife, talking avidly to a young man. She sees her husband coming and says a word to the young man, who hands her her suitcase, tips his hat, and disappears into the crowd. She walks across, meets her husband, gives him a kiss hello.

"Write me that, Sturgeon, and everybody in the country will know how you feel about that meathead senator!"

—Theodore Sturgeon, preface to The Stars Are the Styx, (Dell Books, 1979).

That story has been on my mind recently. I've told it as best I could from memory to various people. I wanted to put it in a place where I could point people at it.

Posted by abostick at 08:40 PM | Comments (1)

March 05, 2003

You kids don't know how easy you've got it.

Bill Gibson explains a idiosyncrasy of his typing, and in the course of doing so writes a description of archaic technology that rivals the best of Robert Heinlein's throwaway paragraphs on the crazy way they did things in the twentieth century:

Much of my earliest typewriting experience had to do with mimeography, a pre-thermocopy form of reproduction once fairly universal in the world's offices. You typed, once, on a waxed paper "stencil", clipped this over a silkscreen device with a moving pad or drum of ink behind it, and your mimeograph ran off (or silkscreened, really) as many copies of your document as you required. Owing to the physical peculiarities of the medium, though, it was unwise to underline too frequently on a mimeograph stencil: the single unbroken line was particularly prone to tear, producing leaks and smudging.

Almost as good is his "Dead Tech backgrounder" on the IBM Selectric.

My God, did they really do that?

Yes, we really did do that. And it was nowhere near as clumsy and peculiar as Bill makes it sound — at least it didn't seem so at the time. And is fussing with mimeo stencils and slipsheeting really any more peculiar than fussing with cascading style sheets?

I have to confess: when I got the spicejar.org server up and running, I felt the same kind of pride of posession that I would have had twenty-five years ago owning a top-of-the-line Gestetner.

Posted by abostick at 10:35 AM | Comments (3)

March 03, 2003

I Can't Figure It Out....

How come more people don't comment David Scott Marley's excellent weblog, Scratchings?

I found Scott's page when Patrick Nielsen Hayden announced its advent in Electrolite in the beginning of January, and I've been following it ever since.

Scott, like so many of us, is preoccupied with the Bush administration and the imminent attack on Iraq. But he also talks about creativity, art, writing, and the stage, and I find myself particularly appreciating what he occasionally says about religion and spirituality.

His most recent entry underscores for me the peculiar relationship between the blogoverse and waking life. At dinner last night Scott talked about his reactions to seeing The Apartment, and here they are again, in more detail on my computer screen. I'm hoping he'll say something about Suddenly Last Summer. (And as of Wednesday, March 3, he has.

Posted by abostick at 11:23 PM | Comments (1)

March 02, 2003

Suddenly Last Summer

It seemed like nobody in our Berkeley Rep subscription group wanted to see a Tennessee Williams play. We wound up swapping tickets around our friends. Dave Nee and Scott Marley took Lyn Paleo's and Doug Faunt's tickets. D. Potter got Lisa Hirsch's. Kimberly Appelcline stayed home, so her husband, Shannon, passed her ticket along to a friend of his. The extra ticket went to Sabyl Cohen (who showed up in a dream I had the other night). The only original subscribers to go were Shannon, Debbie, and I.

The play Suddenly Last Summer is terrific, but the Berkeley Rep's production was problematic. I dozed through far too much of Violet's opening monologues — maybe I was just too sleepy, but our consensus afterwards was that the actress, Randy Danson, just wasn't up to the role, which demands much more presence, piss, and vinegar than she was able to deliver. Likewise, Joey Collins didn't give enough to the role of Dr. Sugar. The bright spot of the cast was Michelle Duffy, playing Catharine, who eclipsed everyone else in the cast every moment she was on stage, showing herself in a vivid technicolor compared to the other castmembers' pastels. She wasn't overplaying; Catharine's role demands it. But Violet's role demands it also, and what the audience got from her was pastel.

In the curtain call at the end, Duffy was visibly drained. Taking her bows seemed to take effort.

Scott Marley had scathing things to say afterwards about the set design and the direction. I rather liked the set myself, but could see what he meant. And I strongly agree with what he said about the lighting: that there were enough unsubtle changes in lighting early on that when the lights hit their bright peak during the climax of Catharine's final monologue the impact was lessened. The earlier lighting changes should have been much more subtle.

We had dinner beforehand, all of us except Shannon and his friend, at the Taiwan Restaurant, on University, just to the west of Shattuck Ave, and after the performance the whole group talked the play to bits at Coquelet over coffee and dessert. I can complain about the production, but the evening as a whole was rich and satisfying.

Posted by abostick at 11:48 PM | Comments (1)

...And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest!

That was fast! I've done essentially no publicizing of this blog, feeling that I wanted to get the bugs out of its appearance before bragging about it. (I'm still working on it.) But I have begun to type its URL into the appropriate box when commenting on other people's blogs.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden noticed, and has included As I Please among the "Friends and Relations" links on the sidebar on Electrolite. At the very top of the list, in fact. Avedon Carol not only picked this up but mentioned it.

I found this out indirectly, when my daily review of /var/log/httpd-access.log to see the home addresses of last night's bunch of script-kiddies looking for Windows NT security holes revealed that a bunch of people were actually downloading and viewing actual Web pages, and that they been referred by Electrolite. and The Sideshow.

Close scrutiny reveals the true reason why my blog leads all the rest in Patrick's listing. Our editorial and design staffs are considering the implications of renaming this weblog Aaaaaaaaaaas I Please. Watch this space for further updates.

Posted by abostick at 12:18 PM | Comments (4)
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