They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it; for it is money they have and peace they lack.
  -James Earl Jones "Field of Dreams"
and don't go mistaking paradise for that home across the road
  -Bob Dylan "Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest"

Monday, May 28, 2007

Really poor choice

The Diamondbacks were winning 5-1, José Valverde had been warming up, but since the Dbacks scored 2 in the top of the 9th, it was no longer a save situation. Melvin puts him in anyway. I immediately say that this is a bad idea, that he will not be focused, that he will end up giving up runs and ultimately screwing up his confidence. The guy is really fragile, and although he is leading the league in saves, he was riding high last year before he fell apart and got sent down to AAA. Sure enough, he walks the first batter, the second gets a hit. After retiring Philly's big bopper Ryan Howard and the red hot Aaron Rowand, he gives up a home run to the next guy and it is a 5-4 nailbiter. Two baserunners later, Valverde is pulled for Brandon Lyon, who gets the last out. This was all Bob Melvin's fault, he never should have put Valverde in that situation. We can only hope that this doesn't screw up the big tater's psyche.

Friday, May 25, 2007

I'm in Hell

On Tuesday afternoon, a computer system that I am responsible for, one that has 1500 users, started acting strangely. By Wednesday afternoon, you could not log into it at all and the support people decided that the Data Dictionary in the Oracle database that the system uses was corrupted. Then they figured out that they had not been backing the database up. So they devised a process that ended up taking twice as long as they thought it would take to rebuild the database. Meanwhile vice presidents have been yelling at vice presidents about all of this and we are seriously rethinking our relationship with CSC, who maintains our databases. It is now almost 1:00 am on Friday and it is back up and I am doing some testing before declaring victory. Unfortunately one of the tests is taking a loooong time. I am sitting here watching an hourglass wishing that I was sleeping. At least it ends with good news.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Right here in Arizona (ugh)

I am proud to say that I have never watched a single minute of American Idol. Somewhere along the line in its earlier years I started to feel a little guilty that I was missing something but Mike mentioned that he had tried to watch it once and his impressions confirmed what I had thought about it.

Now I know more about this godawful waste of broadcasting spectrum than I ever cared to know. It is the fault of the Arizona Republic. Somewhere along the line what happened on these reality shows became "news". So and so was cast off the island on Survivors, etc. This has come to a head on American Idol. The winner was chosen last night apparently and I unfortunately know who it is. The winner was an overweight unattractive woman from Glendale with a poorly spelled name. Over the last few weeks the Rep has covered this almost as intensely as they covered the Suns in the NBA Playoffs. There was a special section of the paper one day, a full page picture of her another day with the notation "good luck".

Meanwhile we are spending a billion dollars every day or so on an illegal war, gas costs three bucks a gallon and the polar icecaps are melting. But people want to hear about this silly talent show.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Cine Capri Committee: From the Inside

Similar to the Frances Barwood piece of a couple of weeks ago, this was written in August of 1997 and is reproduced here so that it won't get lost.

Some months ago, I got interested in the effort to save the Cine Capri Theater. I have gone to the Cine Capri several times in the 18 years that I have lived in Phoenix. It has always reminded me of the places where I saw movies as a child, before the multi-screen megaplexes became the rule. I particularly relish the memory of the first time that we took our two sons to see a film there. I will never forget the looks on their faces when the huge curtains were pulled back, revealing the screen. When I heard that the theater might be torn down and that there was a Mayor's committee being formed to save it, I was very interested in getting involved. I have served on various committees, including a stint as Chairman of the Paradise Valley Village Planning Committee, and I felt that I could lend some expertise to the effort. I was pleased when I received notice from the city that I had been selected. I knew that there had been a large number of applicants.

When I received paperwork on the committee prior to the first meeting I was a little taken aback. There were over 60 people on the committee, including some celebrities like Alice Cooper and Grant Wood. How could a group that large get anything done? The first meeting was somewhat of a circus. Even more people had been added. Most committee members were there, with the exception of Alice and Grant. The Committee Chair was Phoenix City Councilman Craig Tribken, and his co-chairs were KTAR talk show host Pat McMahon and local theater mogul Dan Harkins, who operates the Cine Capri. It became clear quite quickly that this was McMahon's show. Tribken turned the meeting over to him and disappeared until the "last" meeting. The main purposes of this first meeting were to introduce the committee members, to form subcommittees, and to explain the dilemma that lied ahead. Passing the microphone around we each introduced ourselves and explained why we were there. McMahon handled this like one of his shows and a warm fuzzy feeling was had by all. As to the subcommittees, and Tribken did resurface for this part, there were four. There was a research group, a publicity group, a web page group and the "technical subcommittee" which would concentrate on architectural and planning issues. That was the one that I wanted to be on, the one that would do the real work. Tribken then announced who would be on that technical subcommittee and passed out sign-up sheets for the other 3 groups. It was clear from then on that the Mayor's Ad Hoc Committee to Save the Cine Capri was an overpopulated publicity stunt, that the actual work of the committee would be taken care of by a hand-picked group.

I should point out from the beginning that I do not like Grady Gammage, Jr., the attorney for the Gray Family Trust, which owns the property and wants to tear down the theater. I had dealings with him in my days on the PV Committee which I'd rather forget. From that standpoint I was predisposed against the Grays. Had they been represented by Paul Gilbert or even Larry Lazarus it would have more objective. The Grays' position was simple. They owned the property, had every right to tear down the theater if they wanted to, and they wanted to, as they stood to make a lot of money out of the project that they were planning for the parcel. Any proposal that would preserve the theater would lessen the amount of money that they would make. That was their position throughout the process and still is today.

Dan Harkins is a likable fellow. He owns the Harkins Theaters chain and seems to genuinely care about the movies, the theater-going public and the Cine Capri. Pat McMahon spent a lot of time gushing about how wonderful Harkins is and how much better his theaters are than the other guys'. I'm not sure that I agree. I go to the movies once or twice a month and can usually pick between Harkins, AMC and United Artists theaters. The seating, snack offerings, etc., is no better at Harkins theaters than any other. He may have introduced some better seating sound or snacks but the others have clearly caught up. The big Harkins outlet in my area, the Shea 14, is an ill-conceived facility with not enough parking and a 15 minute wait for popcorn. Harkins' position throughout was that he grieved for the loss of Arizona's other big screens and that he wanted this one to stay open, operated, if possible, by him. There was always an uneasy feeling on my part that we, as a City of Phoenix committee, were getting dangerously close to furthering a private enterprise. I eventually worked on the website, what ultimately became The suggestion was once made by Harkins' people that we put in links to the sites that sell movie tickets. Were we building a site for the committee or building one for Harkins? Harkins owns the Internic registration for

The meetings went on monthly for a few months. On one occasion we were unable to achieve a quorum and the point was made that we needed to toss out the Alice Cooper and Grant Wood types who had never attended. It was pretty obvious at these meetings that the Committee itself was getting in the way of things. The technical subcommittee would meet with Gammage and Harkins and come up with some recommendations. When the Committee would have some questions, which is going to happen when a Committee of 70 people meets, it seemed to irritate at least some of the insiders on the technical subcommittee. Lenny Beard, a show biz type who was in the technical group, once complained that the Committee was floundering and that the "Executive Committee" should meet and make decisions. Now, Lenny, there was no executive committee, or if there was it had no legal standing and was in obvious violation of the open meeting laws.

There was very little movement during this period amongst the concerned parties. Gammage rolled out a plan to tear down the theater and rebuild it underground at the site. Most Committee members felt that this would kill the theater and rejected the idea. The research subcommittee sent out a survey to the Committee members asking them to rank from top to bottom the things that they liked about the theater, much like Solomon asking the mother to prioritize her baby's body parts.

We had a deadline from the city and the final meeting was called. A report, written by Tribken, was circulated for approval. The report said essentially:

  • The Cine Capri should be saved
  • A foundation was being formed to carry on the Committee's work. It's Executive Committee (undoubtedly including Lenny Beard) would run the show.
  • Our survey is attached

I for one was outraged at this. What in the hell had I invested my time for? This was all a sham. I tried to at least get language inserted that would take a stand against the underground proposal. It was amended in and then taken back out by Tribken. The procedure at the meeting was confusing enough that the status of that language was not clear at the time a vote was to be taken. Tribken's position was that the Technical Subcommittee's report opposed the underground plan and it would be a "supporting document". Side note: In the 80's there was a massive effort to create the General Plan for the City of Phoenix. The approach taken was to create individual plans for each of the Urban Villages that make up the city. The PV Village Plan, which I was very familiar with, was the product of countless hours of work and laid out a detailed plan for how the area should grow. It was very specific and very detailed. Too much so for the developers. When the first draft of the General Plan was distributed it incorporated all of the Village Plans. The development interests complained that the document was now too large. In the final version, the General Plan was issued bereft of any nouns and verbs and the Village Plans were "supporting documents". The effect is the runaway development that you see in this city. The vague General Plan is often consulted in zoning decisions. The Village Plans never are. Making something a supporting document is the equivalent of throwing it away. End of history lesson. The final vote on this wholly dissatisfying report was umpteen to 3. Two of us opposed the report because it lacked any teeth. A third individual, taking a libertarian tack, believed we had no business telling the developer what to do and opposed the report on that basis.

I left the Council Chambers in thorough disgust. I had taken part in a publicity stunt which consumed countless hours of the time of well-intentioned people and accomplished absolutely nothing.

Since then, things have gone further downhill. The Camelback East Village Planning Committee, not movie buffs it seems, voted unanimously to oppose retaining the theater on the site. David Liebowitz of the Republic, who has recently replaced E.J. Montini as the columnist I most often disagree with (Keven Willey and Joel Nilsson are the good guys), took an editorial stance in favor of tearing it down. Things look pretty grim for the Cine Capri right now. I did read where somebody wanted to move it to downtown Mesa. Big deal, they might as well move it Flagstaff, at least I go there once in a while.

Still, by today's count, 205,990 people have signed petitions to save the place. It would have seemed like the city, along with a group of concerned citizens, could have worked this thing out. Apparently not.

Paul Benjamin, August 24, 1997

Update: The Cine Capri was torn down, a high rise sits on the site. Around this time a radical change to the movie theatre landscape occurred: stadium seating. AMC opened its Esplanade 14 across 24th Street from the Cine Capri site. With the (then) Squaw Peak (now Piestawa) Parkway completed this quickly became our favorite theatre. Non-stadium theatres, even the above-mentioned Shea 14, suffered badly from this. Harkins PV Mall location has closed and never reopened. Harkins opened a stadium outlet at 32nd Street and Bell, AMC countered with one at the new Desert Ridge Marketplace at Tatum and the 101, which then replaced Esplanade 14 as our most visited theatre. Harkins then opened a megaplex at the power center at Scottsdale Road and the 101 and included a large theatre with stadium seating that he dubbed the Cine Capri, using some artifacts rescued before the demolition. We saw one of the Lord of the Rings movies there. It just isn't the same. Last I heard he was thinking about opening another one in Mesa. We moved to Willo so our local theatre is now the AMC Arizona Center 24, with stadium seating. I prefer AMC stadium seating to Harkins' offering because Harkins' seats rock (are movable) which causes uninvited interaction with the people behind me, although we almost always sit in the top row.

Daron Sutton

I don't dislike the guy... yet. One of the most annoying things that goes on is his ridiculous pitcher vs. position player "rivalry" with Mark Grace. The guy was a minor league pitcher for the Class A Boise Hawks (Angels) in 1992 and then left baseball after extended spring training in the Braves' organization in 1993, but you would think he was Don Sutton (his father) to hear the discussions. It is reminiscent of former Diamondbacks announcer Rod Allen (now the TV play by play announcer for the Tigers) and how he used to go on at length about his MLB career, which, if you looked it up, consisted of 50 at bats.

Sutton is still a welcome replacement for Thom Brennaman, but familiarity breeds contempt with these guys.

Am I the only person who can see this?

Daron Sutton (Diamondbacks play by play announcer) to television audience: Here's Scott Hairston, it's good to see him back in the line-up.

Me (to television): No it's not, he's a moron.

Hairston then hits into an inning-ending double play.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Seems like a simple question

So Tony Blair is stepping down. He has annointed his buddy Gordon Brown to take his place. I cannot for the life of me find any reference to this guy's position on the war in Iraq. It would seem like news articles would address this. Even if he has NO position, that would be news, right?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Nightmare is Over

The Diamondbacks finally beat the Mets at Chase Field, ending a 13 game losing streak dating back to 2004. Liván Hernández got the win, Carlos Quentin got a key hit, José Valverde got the save and the final score was 3-1.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Las Vegas

We drove to Las Vegas Friday, spent two nights in the Paris hotel, and drove back Sunday. We were there for Mike and Lori's wedding. Neither of us are big Las Vegas fans. Susan and I visited in 1980 when we she was pregnant with Mike. She had not been back. I went back 3 times for conventions and once with John on the way back from Berkeley.

We were concerned about the drive in that we had heard of problems getting through Hoover Dam and we had to get ready for a party in our room and the dinner we were having, as well as getting John and Agnieszka at the airport. We left at about 8:15 but forgot something and had to turn around at 35th Ave and I-10. Cost us about 30 minutes. The drive there was OK, not much traffic, the Joshua Trees were interesting, etc. The security checkpoint for northbound traffic through the dam is 9 miles south of the dam. I expected a bottleneck there and there was none, there were 3 cars ahead of us in line and we were just waved through. The dam itself was a little congested, but not bad. The only driving hassle was the Strip, where we had to travel from Tropicana to the Paris and it took nearly a half hour. We called John, who was just boarding at SFO, and told him to take a cab.

We parked in self-parking and hit the registration desk at about 2:30. We had called from the road and they told us that they had two connecting rooms for us. Checkin time, per the website, was 3:00. The nice lady at registration informed me that that was wrong, checkin was between 4 and 6 and it might be 6 before we got our two rooms. We argued a bit and I settled for two rooms near each other that we could have right away. Then they told us that we could not get a bellman or a cart at self parking and needed to come to the front for valet parking if we wanted help. So we drove around to the front, gave the cars and bags away, walked to the room where we had to call for our bags.

The rooms were very nice, not huge, but big enough that we did not ask to upgrade (which would have cost $45 x 2 nights x 2 rooms). The hotel was fine, actually, other than this checkin time bait and switch deal. The restaurants, both for the arranged meals, and just stopping in for food, were very good. The minestrone was wonderful.

After unpacking, we walked over to the Bellagio. Susan really liked the indoor garden and was impressed with the fancy shops. If we had to go to LV again for something and money was not an issue this might be the first choice as a place to stay.

My siblings stayed in Bally's, which was attached to the hotel by a walkway and was a little cheaper, with allegedly larger rooms but I didn't see one. It was close enough that if you had a function in one hotel you could stay in the other with no major inconvenience.

John and I walked to Bellagio and Caesar's Palace on Saturday morning. Later we walked with John and Agnieszka down to the Venetian. In the afternoon, Susan and I walked with Kaelyn over to Caesar's and walked through the beginnings of the Forum Shops.

Checking out on Sunday was no hassle, I went down about 8:30 and settled up. There was nobody in line. Then just before checkout time we called a bellman. The bags went down, we went to the front and presented claim tickets to a bellman and to the valet desk. A couple of tips later we had a loaded car, which we then deposited in self parking. After lunch we left, found a back way out of the parking structure which totally avoided the Strip and was very efficient. Bought gas on Tropicana and hit the freeway.

This time there was a big backup at the security checkpoint at the dam. And when we got through it there was a backup all the way to the dam. We lost about 30 minutes. The drive home was pretty boring. When we got to town and headed south on the 101 we ended up getting stuck in a detour that sent us west towards LA on I-10, which turned out to be closed between 83rd and 59th Avenues. We got off at something like 107th Ave., went south to Van Buren and took it, often at 25MPH through garden spots like "downtown" Avondale, until we rejoined I-10 at 59th Ave. This cost us another 30 minutes. It would have been worse if we had taken McDowell because I think that is where they were detouring I-10 traffic.

All in all, I just don't get Las Vegas. I know enough about it now to know where I would like to stay, etc., but I just can't imagine going there for anything other than family or work. Just not my kind of place, I guess.