Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bellagio Heist Pt II

Bellagio Las Vegas

Bellagio nixing $25,000 chip after casino heist

By OSKAR GARCIA, Associated Press

LAS VEGAS – Las Vegas casino bosses are serving notice to the bandit who made off with $1.5 million in chips from the Bellagio: Try to redeem those worth $25,000 soon or they'll become worthless.

Bellagio owner MGM Resorts International is giving public notice that it's discontinuing its standard chip valued at $25,000 and calling for all gamblers holding the chips to redeem them by April 22.

After that, gambling regulators say each red chip with a gray inlay won't be worth more than the plastic it's cast from.

"The bottom line is that they're not money," said David Salas, deputy enforcement chief for the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

MGM Resorts first posted notice of the redemption last week in the classifieds of the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper. That's one week after a robber wearing a motorcycle helmet held up a craps table at gunpoint and made off with a bag of chips of varying denominations.

Police and casino officials have been working since the Dec. 14 heist to try to locate the bandit and keep watch on anyone trying to cash in the chips, which ranged in denomination from $100 to $25,000.

A police spokeswoman said Wednesday there have been no significant developments in the case since then.

MGM Resorts spokesman Alan Feldman told The Associated Press the chips were switched out at the tables within an hour of the robbery, and the Bellagio immediately filed to discontinue the chips.

Feldman said the move was designed to avoid inconveniencing players using the high value chips. He said he did not know how many chips existed and were uncashed.

"Obviously, anyone walking with one of the old series is going to be subject to a certain amount of questioning as to how they obtained them — assuming it isn't someone we know," Feldman told the AP. "It's pretty unusual for someone we don't know to come strolling up with a handful of $25,000 chips."

Discontinuing chips — though done in this case because of the robbery — is not uncommon for Las Vegas casinos, even at high denominations, Salas said.

Commemorative chips to mark a noteworthy prizefight for example, often have a finite circulation. On Wednesday, the Silver Nugget Casino in North Las Vegas posted notice it planned to discontinue chips with the Mahoney's Silver Nugget logo.

State laws require casino operators to serve notice, file a plan with regulators and give gamblers a reasonable amount of time to cash in any chips they're holding — in this case four months.

The move may be moot given other casino safeguards designed to track patrons who cash high-value chips, but will help the casino by lessening the number of chips outside its possession.

"If they have people that they know are players redeem the ones that they know they have, pretty much it's process of elimination — you're left with people who aren't supposed to have the chips," said David Schwartz, a former casino security guard and director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

It's not immediately clear how many of the chips that were stolen were $25,000 chips, though it could be as many as 60.

Personal comment: The quicker the chips are worthless the better.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pointe shoe quiz December 28, 2010

Who is the maker of these shoes?

This one may be a bit tricky.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Natalie Portman pregnant by choreographer

An Ortho progestin/estrogen pill dial pack

Natalie Portman to wed `Black Swan' choreographer
Associated Press December 27, 2010

“NEW YORK - Natalie Portman is pregnant with her first child and is engaged to Benjamin Millepied, the choreographer of "Black Swan."

A publicist for Portman confirmed Monday that the couple are engaged and expecting, but declined to give any further details. People magazine first reported the news.

The 29-year-old actress and Millepied, a well-regarded ballet dancer and choreographer, met during the making of "Black Swan," Darren Aronofsky's psychological thriller that stars Portman as a ballet dancer. She's been nominated for best actress by the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild.

Millepied played a small on-screen role in the film as a dancer. Portman also stars in Ivan Reitman's upcoming romantic comedy, "No Strings Attached."”

Personal Comment: There goes her figure! Sigh! Because she isn’t a dancer she doesn’t have to stay in that great shape, but still… I wonder if there was a birth control method failure or if she forgot to take her pill or was taking another medicine that reduced the effectiveness of the hormones? Because of the timing that’s what I think happened. But, perhaps not, since she is almost 30 and nearing the age where her fertility will be decreasing. Maybe they just said “let’s go w/o protection and see what happens”… you think? Apparently this time the plumbing was working just fine.

And speaking of the effectiveness of hormonal birth control, below are the results of a large study testing the effectiveness of a 24/4 dosing regimen.

Real life tests of the effectiveness of oral contraceptives

A typical monthly regimen of oral contraceptives includes 21 days of active pills -- usually containing a combination of the hormones estrogen and progesterone -- and a 7-day break of inactive sugar pills.

Oral contraceptives boast annual unintended pregnancy rates well below 1 percent -- if used correctly and consistently, that is.

But in the not-so-perfect real world, longer lasting ingredients and shorter monthly breaks between active pills could prove useful in bolstering this form of birth control, hints a new study from Germany.

A typical monthly regimen of oral contraceptives includes 21 days of active pills -- usually containing a combination of the hormones estrogen and progesterone -- and a 7-day break of inactive sugar pills. The intent is to prevent pregnancy by obstructing ovulation, or the release of an egg during a woman's monthly cycle.

"Forgetting the first active pills of a treatment cycle has the biggest impact on contraceptive failure as this time interval may allow the process that leads to ovulation to start," Dr. Jurgen Dinger of the Berlin Center for Epidemiology and Health Research told Reuters Health in an e-mail.

To test whether decreasing the pill-free interval and using hormones with a longer duration of action may help counteract this common problem, Dinger and his colleagues studied more than 52,000 U.S. women who took part in the "International Active Surveillance of Women Taking Oral Contraceptive" study.

The participants' average age was 26 years, and each had started on a new contraceptive. More than 80 percent of the women had previously taken another version of the Pill.

The researchers did not interfere with the choice of oral contraceptive, but rather categorized the women into three groups based on their new hormone regimens: 21 days of 3 milligrams of drospirenone (progesterone) plus 30 micrograms of ethinyl estradiol (estrogen); 24 days of 3 milligrams of drospirenone plus 20 micrograms of ethinyl estradiol, or another regimen.

The 21-day drospirenone regimen is currently sold under the brand name Yasmin and the 24-day regimen, with longer-lasting progesterone, is sold as Yaz. Generic versions are also available. Bayer Schering Pharma, maker of Yasmin, supported the study.

Over the course of 3 years following the women, more than 1,600 became pregnant unintentionally. About 1,400 of these contraceptive failures were due to an imperfect use of the Pill.

Unintended pregnancy rates for the 21-day and 24-day drospirenone regimens were 2.8 percent and 2.1 percent at the end of the first year, respectively, and 5.7 and 4.7 percent after the third year.

Women older than age 30 were significantly less likely than younger women to get pregnant unintentionally. Women with a college education and who had never carried a child were also less likely to become pregnant.

Obese women -- who made up nearly a quarter of the U.S. women studied -- had about a 50 percent greater risk of contraception failure after accounting for age, education level and whether or not they had prior children.

According to the researchers, under all the situations studied, the 24-day drospirenone regimen yielded more protection against pregnancy than the 21-day drospirenone regimen, as well as the other oral contraceptives.

However, compared to findings from the same study conducted in Europe, U.S. women showed an overall four-fold higher unintended pregnancy rate.

Dinger suggested that multiple factors could explain this gap in effectiveness, from higher rates of obesity in the U.S. to cultural, behavioural and genetic differences between the regions.

Dinger also noted that most programs that have tried to improve the proper use of the Pill have failed. "Our approach," he emphasized, "did not intend to investigate ways to improve compliance but to look at whether specific oral contraceptive regimens are more 'robust' against incompliance than others."

"This should not mitigate the need for good counseling of female adolescents and women intending to use the Pill," added Dinger. "A highly effective oral contraceptive regimen in conjunction with good counseling is the only way to minimize unintended pregnancies."

SOURCE: Obstetrics and Gynecology, online December 3, 2010. The full text of the article can be found at:

Personal comment: We have known since the introduction of Yaz in the U.S. that the long half-life of drospirenone reduces the chance of breakthrough ovulation during the hormone free interval. Most students on oral contraceptives at St Lucy’s are on Yaz the 24/4 dosing regimen of 3 milligrams of drospirenone plus 20 micrograms of ethinyl estradiol. There are no obese students and roommates buddy to make sure each girl takes her pill at the same time daily. Even so there are times when a student is on meds that decrease the effectiveness of her pills and will ovulate and a few of these instances will result in the need for emergency contraception to avoid an unintended pregnancy. The availability of ella (the five-day EC pill) has increased the effectiveness of EC for St Lucy’s girls.

FDA Approves Gardasil for Prevention of Anal Cancer in Both Sexes

December 23, 2010 — FDA on Wednesday approved Merck's human papillomavirus vaccine, Gardasil, for the prevention of anal cancer in people ages nine through 26, Reuters reports. The vaccine already was approved to prevent cervical, vulvar and vaginal cancers associated with HPV for the same age group.

On Wednesday, FDA cited data showing that Gardasil was effective in a study of men who have sex with men, a group that has a higher incidence of anal cancer than other populations. The agency said the data support the vaccine's efficacy in women because the disease is the same in both sexes.

Although anal cancer is less common than most other types of cancer, with about 5,300 new U.S. cases diagnosed annually, FDA said incidence of the disease is increasing (Krauskopf, Reuters, 12/22). About 90% of anal cancers are linked with HPV, according to Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal (Solsman, Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal, 12/22).

Karen Midthun, director of FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said, "Treatment for anal cancer is challenging; the use of Gardasil as a method of prevention is important, as it may result in fewer diagnoses and the subsequent surgery, radiation or chemotherapy that individuals need to endure."

As of the end of May, more than 65 million doses of Gardasil had been distributed since its 2006 approval, with sales reaching $1.1 billion as of 2009 (Reuters, 12/22). The vaccine once was expected to be a blockbuster for Merck, but sales have declined as more individuals are immunized and GlaxoSmithKline's HPV vaccine, Cervarix, provides more competition, according to Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal (Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal, 12/22).

Personal comment: Starting last year our clinic began giving Gardasil injections to male dancers and all escort candidates as an off label use to protect men from anal cancer.

Dive-sex on Trimix

An Ocean Technologies Guardian FFM

Discipline facility maintenance: Taryn wanted to dive Trimix while she is home and the only place deep enough to do that is Adolph’s 216 foot deep by 36 foot diameter well at his discipline training facility. Adolph lets us dive it when the facility isn’t in use, mainly for training young European Rubber-Girl Submissives. Adolph has one of the few very deep all-year training facilities so Doms are willing to pay transportation, room and board to get newbies to the fetish taught the basics of being sexually dominated underwater while incased in rubber. The Dom gets videos of her training to savor in private moments or show to friends.

I’ll do a Trimix dive at Adolph’s occasionally when I want to have a lover plant sperm in me while I’m 200 feet below the surface, which is a huge thrill for me! In return I’ll clean up the debris on the bottom of the well. Abi, Adolph’s Pool-Assistant (and Lorelei in residence), is afraid of diving to the bottom of the well with Adolph because he is very rough with her and she is scared of rough sex at that depth. That means the bottom doesn’t get cleaned very often, but that gives me a chance to be useful to him in a matter concerning the training facility which grants me access to it.

So Taryn and I took two of our fave deep diving stallions and went on a prearranged ‘bottom-date’ in the well this morning. We wore the Gottex thong bikinis that are the casinos signature swimsuits. And we both had Reflexions inserted as gas-guards because our lovers both enjoy the feel of thrusting into the thin stretchy latex membrane of the domes. The water in the well is heated to 85° F and circulated so the pool is a uniform temperature throughout it’s entire depth so wearing thongs on the bottom was comfy, but then dive-sex is strenuous so we were working with heavy respiration quite a bit of the time.

We used Ocean Technologies Guardian FFMs equipped for Trimix and a Trimix blend of 19/30 in Worthington HP steel X8-130 twin sets with tanks of 100% oxygen pre-positioned at our 40 ft. deco stop. The importance of a using an FFM for deep dives and dive-sex can’t be overemphasized. For dive-sex if it gets rough and having her cervix rammed causes the woman to expel her reg at best it interrupts the moment and at worst she ingests enough water that she needs to terminate the dive. The other reason a FFM is so important is in case of decompression sickness (DCS) where the diver might pass out or have a seizure and expel his or her regulator and it may be impossible for the dive buddy to get the reg back in her mouth. That is a very common cause of dive fatalities especially where the ascent will take too long for there to be a reasonable chance of survival w/o being able to breathe.

The men took care of our needs, twice for each of us, and then we let them go while we cleaned up the bottom. We could have used their help, but I didn’t want them to pay attention to what was on the bottom and start asking questions and getting ideas. What we found was chilling. I’ve mentioned before seeing training pools where women’s birth control and cervical protection devices littered the bottom and that was the case on the bottom of the well. What I found exceptionally scary was that there were three GyneFix IUDs (the gold standard for non-hormonal contraception) on the bottom. In the case of two the implanted knot had come out of the fundus and the entire device had been expelled. On the third the cord holding the copper sleeves had broken and only two of the six sleeves were still on the cord. I’m hoping the expulsion of GyneFix IUDs can be explained by the fact that several years ago when GyneFix first came on the marked in Europe the implantation process hadn’t been perfected and the expulsion rate was about 10 – 15% during the first three months after implantation. Our clinic hasn’t had any expulsions or cords breaking in the two years since we have been using the new implantation procedure. In addition to the GyneFix devices we found:

Ortho latex Coil spring diaphragm, one, 60mm with a thin spot that became a hole in the dome
Ortho latex All-Flex arcing spring diaphragms, two 65 mm one of which had a tear in the dome.
Silicone All-Flex arcing spring diaphragms, 7 of various, but mostly 65 mm sizes two of which had punctures in the domes.
Cooper Surgical (Milex) Omniflex silicone diaphragms, 2 a 65 mm and 70 mm
Reflexions latex flat spring diaphragm, one 75 mm.
FemCaps, 3 one small 22 mm and two mediums size, 26 mm
Prentif Cavity rim cervical caps, 2 a 22 mm and a 25 mm.
Oves cervical caps, 2 both 28 mm
ParaGard framed copper IUDs, 3 two with bent frames
Mirena, IUD, 1 with a bent frame
FC1 condoms, 16
FC2 condoms, 27
• Filled DiveGel applicators, 7
• Empty DiveGel applicators, 37
• Filled Semécide applicators, 1
• Empty Semécide applicators, 43
• Filled Conceptrol spermicide applicators, 3
• Empty Conceptrol spermicide applicators, 5

From the Number and type contraceptive products we found it seems clear that: Women being sent for training at a facility deeper than 30 feet were not being told that if a diaphragm was to be used for training only a Reflexions flat spring latex diaphragm would provide under-thrust and distortion free protection down to at least 200 feet. All the women sent are beautiful and slim. It seems likely that the 65 mm silicone All-Flex devices were too small (under-sizing is a common mistake made by inexperienced fitters) making them easier to dislodge and expel. The number of full lube and spermicide applicators on the bottom suggests that the women were nervous about being in training and not confident about the use of vaginal applicators. And, additionally, a lot of their diaphragms or caps were being either expelled or intentionally being pulled out by their partner/instructors. That being the case one hopes they are being removed after providing protection as gas-guards during dive-sex. Contraception is a different matter entirely and can be taken care of easily with emergency contraception especially since Ella is now available in the U.S. And pregnancy at least through the 8th week with Mifeprex so while it might put the woman in a moral quandary she has options readily available. That isn’t the case if she gets an embolism because her gas guard was pulled out during dive-sex before she was penetrated.

It was a fun morning and Taryn and I enjoyed ourselves immensely! We masturbated each other while we were tethered to the deco buoy at 40 feet so we were really relaxed by the time we reached the surface. I kept all the debris we collected on the bottom and will give it to Jeff for analysis by his technicians at Labia Labs. They can sometimes get the wearer’s DNA from the devices and test the effectiveness of lube and spermicide remaining in the empty applicators. It’s amazing what you can learn about the women who pass through Adolph’s training facility by doing that.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Punitive pointe training explained

A teacher preparing to teach a punitive pointe training class

A reader asks: After reading about punitive pointe training from my December 27, 2009 entry ‘Jill pads and punitive pointe training’ Risa asked “Can you explain deeper what kind of pointe training used as punitive pointe training? I really interested to this topic”

The section of the entry she is enquiring about is: Anya and punitive pointe training: Because Anya is a masochist and enjoys brutal pointe sex along with other specialties she accepted a commission from a unit of Taryn’s Adult Media Empire to advise the Swiss head mistress on what additions should be made to the classical syllabus for pointe training to heighten its punitive aspect and exactly what the disciplinary regimen should consist of to achieve various levels of pain for training purposes. She will also examine the physical plant to see if any changes need to be made to introduce ‘solitary barre’ punishment and if there is need for any additional machines and devices creative punitive pointe training can require. The trip will also give her an opportunity to see Castle Deiter for the first time since its renovation with Tanaquil and one of her lieutenants, who used to be one of Deiter’s girls, giving the tour.”

Punitive pointe training, the details: PPT can and will vary from school to school and from teacher to teacher. I see it needed when a student with potential doesn’t take her pointe classes seriously enough and isn’t performing at the level she is capable of. I think that is showing disrespect for the art and the tradition of the skills being handed down from one generation of dancers to the next. Therefore, every teacher who administers punitive point training under my supervision wears a short (classical) tutu and pointes and is on pointe with the student being disciplined during her entire disciplinary session.

There is nothing elaborate or particularly special about the punitive pointe training regimen I use. Well, not to begin with, although the punitive regimen calls for the woman undergoing PPT to take class with a special vaginal plug inserted. The plug is inserted to give the student something to block out of her mind – a lesson in partitioning - while concentrating on the steps she required to perform. It also has a more sinister purpose if it turns out that she is very stubborn and refused to be compliant.

We find using classical steps and poses at the barre and then center work are usually enough to bring a student with a recalcitrant attitude in line. Using steps from the classical idiom provides justification for the very intense training needed to make certain the student in question has that step, combination or pose committed to memory and the stamina to perform a long series of an exercise correctly.

We first have a dancer undergoing a punitive training regimen do a twenty minute barre – in pointe shoes – to make certain she is well warmed up. Then we take her through a series of steps depending how naughty she has been. Basic steps like:

Relevé from straight-knee positions, fully rolling through the foot while both rising and descending is very important.

Relevé from demi-plié, springing strongly from the heels and drawing the toes slightly under the insteps so the feet are in first position on pointe with the toes directly under the heels. It’s important to work through demi-pointe when returning the heels to the floor.

Échappé on pointe, in second or fourth position. Standing in fifth position, demi-plié, then spring out to second position on pointe, pushing off strongly with the heels. The feet can be exchanged, front, back after an 8, or 16 count or changed each time you close.

Relevé en Arabesque, with the left leg extended back in arabesque à terre well turned out from the hip, demi-plié. Spring up into Relevé on the right foot extending the leg back parallel to the floor. Lower through demi-pointe to demi-plié maintaining strength in back not permitting the left leg to drop and keeping a strong point in the left foot. Repeat 8 or 16 times on the same foot then repeat the series on the other leg.

Administering PPT: The class is taught by a very experienced instructor. I teach PPT with a 30 inch riding crop with a thin leather tress on the end. To make corrections I flick the tress against the sole or toe-box of the dancer’s pointe. The steps are basic, but the number of repetitions is not. We start with fifty 16-count reps on each foot and go through the series of steps while I judge the mental attitude of the student. If I don’t think she is cooperative and giving me her best effort we go through the process again with one hundred 16-count reps on each foot. This will generally separate the determined from the serious bloody toes masochists. Very few students can do one hundred 16-count reps w/o going rubber-legged and falling off pointe at which time the girl is grounded until she can perform the required amount of discipline successfully.

Occasionally a teacher’s authority will be directly challenged by a new student who has been to a more liberal school as far as pointe training is concerned. Or, one who has burnt out and no longer cares, but doesn’t want to quit. It those cases as a last resort to bend the naughty dancer to the teacher’s will she can operate a small remote transmitter that sends a charge of electricity through electrodes in the trainee’s plug. One electrode is in contact with the ring of nerves just inside her vagina while the other electrode is along the anterior wall of her vagina against her G-spot and bladder.

The teachers administering PPT have all worn ‘spark-plugs’ as they are known and had the plug activated while we are trying to hold a pose or perform a step. You are thinking about getting the step done correctly when the shock hits in total surprise. You feel this tremendous jolt and every muscle seems to contract at the same time. Some gasp and fall off pointe, some double over with severe cramps, most start to cry. We all empty our bladders spontaneously and it’s a scary and humiliating experience.

In the three years I’ve been administering PPT at St Lucy’s I’ve never had to activate a girl’s spark plug. I consider it a failure on my part if I can’t get a student to perform to the best of her ability w/o shocking her. Driving her into exhaustion takes a bit longer, but when I’m administering punitive training I’m doing what I ask her to do along with her step for step and they know after the first hour or two that they aren’t going to be able to get away with anything less than their best effort. I usually bond with those students during their PPT session and we end up being best friends.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

ABT’s new Nutcracker: a review

Gillian Murphy and David Hallberg as Clara and her Nutcracker

The New York Times
December 24, 2010
A ‘Nutcracker’ Sprouts Alter Egos

Once you’ve seen a number of different “Nutcrackers,” you might think you know all the main ways that the old ballet can be retold. But you don’t.

In Alexei Ratmansky’s new version of “The Nutcracker,” currently in its world premiere season at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, American Ballet Theater has a production like no other. Made with complete theatrical authority from first to last, it shows many aspects of Mr. Ratmansky: satirist, storyteller, dramatist, poet. I’m impatient to see it again, but a large part of the delight it affords on first viewing lies in not knowing what’s going to happen.

This work (to which critics were first admitted on Thursday) isn’t a “Nutcracker” that leads us back to the original story by E. T. A. Hoffmann, though it takes a few unusual points from there. Instead its basic structure is that of numerous Russian “Nutcrackers” since the Stalinist era: little Clara (the Russians usually call her Masha) no sooner sees the Nutcracker, once he’s transformed into a Prince, than they fall in love-love-love and at once turn into adults. Never mind going to meet any Sugar Plum Fairy — instead they get to dance the music of her pas de deux themselves.

But Mr. Ratmansky takes that formula, tweaks it and makes it new. When his boy (transformed) and girl meet, they’re kindred spirits but from different worlds. They suddenly become doubled — they acquire mature alter egos, a twist that transforms the ballet’s sense of time and space. They’re like the hero and heroine of Philip Pullman’s superlative trilogy, “His Dark Materials” — young lovers from parallel universes.

At first it seems marvelous that we see the grown-ups they’ll become, but then Mr. Ratmansky takes us one step further and shows us how those adults still feel like the children they were. Their grand pas de deux is alternately formal and informal: they show the big, classically perfect dance shapes, arcs, gestures and steps that reveal their ideal qualities, but they also just can’t help expressing their own lesser-mortal amazement about this.

The main story is still focused on their younger selves. Mr. Ratmansky has animated the entire company. (I don’t enjoy a few supporting performances, but at every moment they’re precisely considered.) Yet amid several superb interpretations on Thursday, none surpassed those of the two central children. Young Catherine Hurlin’s partly angry, partly vulnerable, never picture-perfect Clara exemplifies the individuality of Mr. Ratmansky’s approach. Tyler Maloney as her Nutcracker Boy has the same courage and the same vulnerability. Mr. Ratmansky asks him to sustain one particular pose — arms open, face upturned, not facing the audience but on a diagonal — that suggests his mix of astonishment and gratitude, and it strikes home as something unusual in ballet, a private moment that is emotionally huge but not being sold to the public.

When these two children find themselves in the Land of Snow, it’s not a winter wonderland for them — it’s an adventure, now frightening, now freezing. The poetry of Mr. Ratmansky’s vision here is very striking: no Snowflakes were ever more ambiguous, and they have been given pouncing jumps, spinning arcs, and insistent gestures that make us feel we’re in the land of Hans Christian Andersen’s “Snow Queen.”

Later this young heroine and hero do meet a Sugar Plum Fairy — in this case, an exotically regal, nondancing one. It’s thanks to her presentation that suddenly they have another moment out of time and see their adult selves united in love and, finally, marriage.

As the older Clara and Nutcracker, Gillian Murphy and David Hallberg gave performances on Thursday that count immediately among the high-water marks of their already distinguished careers. Mr. Ratmansky has given them roles that wonderfully yoke their dual commitment to ballet classicism and to dramatic sincerity. There are spectacular throws and catches in the pas de deux, and yet acrobatics aren’t the point here; what you think about is the spontaneity of love’s first excitement.

Mr. Hallberg’s solo starts with a slow fall sideways that’s exactly what nobody expects to see in a ballet, but this quirky impetus becomes the humanizing force within the beautifully bobbing series of jumps that follow. Just as Ms. Murphy’s Clara finishes the main part of her solo (one of the blander passages of the work, admittedly), she goes right off into the wings, then sticks her head out as if sharing a joke with us. She pops straight back on and tears up the stage in a circuit of jumps and turns in which her own terrific academic clarity and fullness become charged with renewed rapture.

Mr. Hallberg starts the coda with a solo of extraordinarily shimmering delicacy, building up to a more conventional display of heroic jumps around the stage (danced with unconventional finesse). Yet not long after, within the very same number, both he and Ms. Murphy, amid a busy phrase, suddenly stand on flat feet and reel a little — as if unable to believe what’s happening to them. These dances keep saying both, “This is perfect,” and, “We can’t believe this is happening”; you feel how full their hearts are.

The production seizes your attention surely from its opening kitchen scene. True, I don’t care for the two synchronized dancing maids. (Here and in some other character dances, Léonide Massine’s choreography comes to mind, not for the first time when watching Mr. Ratmansky’s.) But the whole “Upstairs, Downstairs” layering of this household, funny and touching, is vividly, intimately introduced to us here — and there’s a memorable preview of the mice. Richard Hudson’s sets and costumes perfectly complement the choreography, giving us a partly caricatured Dickensian world that changes unexpectedly into the silver birches of a Russian winterscape.

The cartoon quality in those maids becomes more irksome when whole groups of children repeat the same gestures in unison. Then, as Mr. Ratmansky’s version proceeds, these notes of caricature become part of a pattern. The effect of this is to make Clara and the Nutcracker — like Alice in Wonderland — by far the most real and three-dimensional figures onstage. The parents and Drosselmeyer are all vivid, but these grown-ups are almost as not-quite-real as the mice and the Snowflakes and the Sweets.

That’s fine, moment by moment and dance by dance. There are various kinds of laughs to be had from the Arabian and Russian dances, as well as from Mother Ginger (whose skirts contain a real surprise). But we never sense that Clara and the Nutcracker have become visitors to a realm of purer, larger forms. Though Mr. Hudson’s Sweet Kingdom designs are bright, they have none of the poetic dimensions of his Snow Scene. Even the main point of the Waltz of the Flowers is primarily just fun — with busy, silly male bees pollinating happy, silly, jubilant female flowers — though arranged with absorbing complexity.

The entertainment level doesn’t flag. Missing, at any rate on a first view, is the all-embracing generosity of spirit that marks many good “Nutcrackers.” Instead — and it’s a beautiful paradox — the large moments of Mr. Ratmansky’s version are intimate ones.

This version will repay re-watching. Ormsby Wilkins and the American Ballet Theater Orchestra were at their very finest on Thursday, apparently loving — without rushing — the score’s rhythmic interplay and fantastic instrumentation.

Several alternate casts of dancers follow, probably bringing other nuances. I plan to see at least one more of them this year and hope that it won’t be long before I have the chance to see this exceptional first cast again.

Personal comment: I think he liked it! Merry Christmas everyone!

Merry Christmas!

Wishing all my readers a very Merry Christmas!

Post tour physicals: Anya, Cyndi, Gigi and I went for our post-tour physicals this afternoon. There weren’t any surprises because as I’ve mentioned earlier in a previous post we all used FC2s for every encounter. Even as great as our stamina is we are all pretty much achy and exhausted after constantly being mounted for three days and seeing the extent of some of their wounds.

So it will be lovely snuggling and sleeping with a girl for a change. We are all Bi (to an extent) and it’s at times like this – even though we are all fertile – that sleeping with a woman is divine! Anya will be in my bed, I haven’t had her in ages! And Gigi will sleep with Cyndi. No need to wear plugs or gas guards or DiveGel just a flavored lube for oral sex and a good solid night’s sleep. I think we are all suffering a bit from adrenaline withdrawal after the three-day high of our hospital tour. Tonight our men can play with themselves or each other.

Christmas day: I’m having my circle – the same group that was here for Thanksgiving (less Fiona and Colin) - over for Christmas dinner tomorrow and look forward to relaxing diving The Pit with a friend or two after I recover a bit tonight.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Stormy weather off the Pacific

Avalanche conditions on Mount Charleston in the Spring Mountains west of Vegas

While I was away: We had 2 ½ days of heavy rain - and snow in the surrounding mountains. The weather service said it was the biggest weather event Vegas has had since the rains of 2005. We are all just back safely from a very successful tour of military hospitals in the surrounding states. Given our military partners unknown sexual history the use of FC2s was mandatory, but no one seemed to mind and from what I could tell (and I’m a pretty good judge) the condoms didn’t hinder performance at all.

Below are some articles from the LV Sun about the flooding. We still have avalanche warnings in the Spring Mountains west of town.

The Las Vegas Sun
December 23, 2010

“While the weather in Las Vegas was sunny and in the upper 50s today, the risk for avalanches from recent heavy snow on Mount Charleston [in the Spring Mountains west of the city] was upgraded this morning from an advisory to a warning, prompting Metro police to go door-to-door to help residents evacuate. Police made contact with 18 residents, Clark County officials said. There were three snow slides on the mountain overnight, which occurred in the Echo and Cathedral subdivisions, Clark County officials said. Residents on the mountain were being “strongly urged” to leave their homes and go somewhere safe.”

The Las Vegas Sun
December 22, 2010
By Erin Dostal, Cara McCoy, Dave Toplikar

Another day of storms has closed roads throughout the Las Vegas Valley, caused a power outage in the Mount Charleston area and prompted a second day of closures at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. In northeastern Clark County, heavy rains caused minor damage of several homes along the Virgin River in Mesquite.

A flash flood warning has been extended for north-central Clark County, with water up to 3 feet deep running Wednesday morning across Warm Springs Road along the Pahranagat Wash in the northern valley, near Moapa.

The National Weather Service is reporting flash flooding east of the Hoover Dam on U.S. Highway 93 — an area where heavy rain is expected through much of the afternoon. Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Chelita Rojas said there is no similar damage on the Nevada side of the dam.

A flash flood watch has been in effect for Southern Nevada. Flash floods have been occurring sporadically throughout the region on Wednesday. Although the heavy rains have moved east of the area, weather officials said the runoff from previous rain would likely continue to cause flash flood problems.

A flash flood watch continues throughout the evening for Southern Nevada, according to weather service officials.

“This event is very anomalous just from the high moisture content that was coming in off the Pacific that brought copious amounts of rain to the valley,” said Barry Pierce, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “Typically we don’t see things quite this extreme.”

Pierce said this storm has about twice as much moisture in it as typical winter storms in Las Vegas. Much of that moisture, he said, is coming from as far away as the tropics and Hawaii.

Clark County officials say they're bracing for up to 2 inches of rain, but hope stormy weather will ease overnight. A flood warning is in effect for Clark County until 4:15 p.m.

Local law enforcement officials have reported that some roads have been flooded in the northwest part of Las Vegas.

Stephanie Street at Munson Channel was closed to traffic starting at 7 a.m. Wednesday morning, county officials said. Additional road closures have been announced at Farm Road and Rainbow Boulevard, and on Twain Avenue between Industrial Road and Rio Drive, near the Las Vegas Strip.

The weather service called the warning because between .24 and .50 inches of rain was falling per hour, which could lead to flash floods in washes, forecasters said.

The weather service warned motorists that “it only takes 18 inches of swiftly moving water to sweep a vehicle off the road, and less than six inches of swiftly moving water to sweep a person of their feet.” If water covers the roadway, forecasters said, don’t drive on it.

The Red Rock Canyon scenic drive and visitor center on State Route 159 will be closed all day due to flooding and debris, BLM officials said this morning. The area also was shut down on Monday due to weather.

North Las Vegas officials have released a list of road closures, with some areas being flooded with as much as one foot of water.

Ann Road, west of Lawrence Street, has been closed, and cars are stranded on the roadway, officials said. The intersections of Grand Teton Drive and Decatur Boulevard, and Pecos Road and Cheyenne Avenue are closed, with flooding occurring in all directions.

Intersections at Lamb Boulevard and Cheyenne Avenue, and Las Vegas Boulevard and Cheyenne Avenue, have also closed due to flooding.

Other intersections are also flooded, but are passable with signs posted for caution, officials said. Manhole covers have slid off, causing gushing water at the intersections of Centennial Parkway and Statz Street, and Commerce Street and Palmer Street.

Streets in Henderson were mostly clear.

“We’ve put a lot of improvements into our flood channels over the past few years, but as far as today, there haven’t been any problems,” said Henderson spokeswoman Kathleen Richards. No road closures have been announced in Henderson, she said.

In more rural Clark County, other roads closed were Ranch Road, from State Route 168 to Greasewood, Elbow Canyon Road in the Bunkerville area, Bonnie Springs Road, and Arroyo Road in Blue Diamond, county officials said.

At 5:36 a.m., local law enforcement reported that widespread flooding is occurring throughout the Pahrump area. The National Weather Service Doppler radar indicated that locally heavy rain would continue over that area, which would also add to the flooding.

Areas affected included Pahrump, the Desert Retreat RV Resort and State Route 160 on the west side of the Spring Mountains.

Power still out on Mount Charleston

About 300 NV Energy customers on Mount Charleston were still without power Wednesday morning, with crews likely spending the next four days putting up power lines to restore electricity.

The Red Cross announced Wednesday it would be opening an emergency shelter at 4 p.m. at James H. Bilbray Elementary School, 9370 Brent Lane, to accommodate residents without power. Volunteers will be providing cots and hot meals.

NV Energy said it could take days to fully repair the lines on Mount Charleston. At minimum, it will take crews an additional 72 hours to get main lines back up, said NV Energy spokesman Mark Severts.

“Even after that, you may have some residents without power to individual homes,” he said, saying lines going into residences have likely also been damaged by the storm.

“In terms of a Mount Charleston outage, this is the worst our crews have in memory,” Severts said. “This is the worst in history from the perspective of NV Energy and Nevada Power.”

The biggest cause of the outages is downed power lines, Severts said. Most of the power lines have fallen due to falling tress and branches, and because snow and ice built up on them, causing wires snapped under the weight, he said.

NV Energy crews did not work through the night because of safety concerns, Severts said.

“With it continuing to snow heavily, they’re making no progress yet,” he said, adding that a significant amount of additional damage had occurred overnight.

At 3 p.m., the first NV Energy crews are expected to return from the mountain with status updates, Severts said.

Flash flood watch

A flash flood watch continues through this evening for portions of northwest Arizona, California and southern Nevada, including the Las Vegas Valley.

Forecasters say occasional rain will continue through the day, with isolated thunderstorms producing locally heavy rainfall. Rainfall rates could be between one and two inches an hour, they said.

The rain will cause ponding of water in low-lying areas, as well as rapidly flowing water in normally dry washes, they said. Flows of water and mud or debris might occur over area roads, they said. Travelers, campers and residents should be aware of the potential for flash flooding, forecasters said.

Flooding in Mesquite - possible flooding along the Virgin River.

Meteorologist Pierce said the Virgin River, which caused flooding in Mesquite, crested above 16 feet Tuesday night. It will likely crest — meaning reach its highest level before flooding over — again Thursday morning at 14 feet, he said.

Officials there said water levels dropped overnight after two homes were slightly damaged Tuesday.

Len DeJoria, a fire prevention officer for Mesquite, has been working with emergency crews. About 30 homes in Mesquite were evacuated voluntarily Tuesday night. Only one of those homes sustained significant damage, DeJoria said.

There has been localized pooling and flooding of water throughout the city, DeJoria said, but most streets are open and residents have been released to return home.

“It has slowed down somewhat for now,” DeJoria said of the weather.

There is a flood warning in effect through Thursday evening for the Virgin River and Beaver Dam Wash in northeastern Clark and north central Mohave counties, the weather service said.

Mesquite Police had asked residents to voluntarily evacuate an area east of Sage Way between East Mesquite Boulevard and East Old Mill Road, forecasters said.

An evacuation center was set up at the Virgin Valley High School. Sandbags were made available at Hunter Park.

Mandatory evacuations did occur at Beaver Dam Arizona on Tuesday. Beaver Dam Wash crested at 14.7 feet at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Temperatures to stay in the 50s

At 5:56 a.m. today, the temperature at McCarran International Airport was 51 degrees. The normal low for today's date is 36 degrees. The record low was 12 degrees, set in 1990.

Around the valley just before 6 a.m., temperatures were 50 degrees at North Las Vegas Airport, 52 degrees at Nellis Air Force Base and 50 degrees at Henderson Executive Airport.

Temperatures in the valley were to rise today to 53 degrees by 9 a.m., to 55 degrees by noon, which is expected to be the high for the day, forecasters said. The normal high for today's date is 56 degrees and the record high was 68 degrees, set in 1950.

Temperatures are expected to drop to 48 degrees by 6 p.m., and remain at 48 degrees at 9 p.m. and at midnight, forecasters said.

Thursday's morning low will be 45 degrees and Thursday's high will climb to 57 degrees, they said.

Rain will lift Lake Mead water levels, but only slightly
By Joe Schoenmann
Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010 12:03 p.m.

During heavy rainfall it's tempting to believe that the Las Vegas Valley's water woes have ended, that the drought is over and the multi-billion-dollar pipeline project to solve our water shortage can be halted.

Unfortunately, that's not the case.

No doubt rain is better than no rain, but Las Vegas would need a torrent of Biblical proportions to bring Lake Mead back to where it was before the drought, now in its 11th year.

Personal Comment: Well, the rains started on the 20th so we didn’t get to see the eclipse. The good news is that the casinos and my friend’s homes are ok. We had planned for flash flooding – there is a reason why some gullies are called dry ‘river beds’ or ‘washes’ – so no one should build in ‘that lovely low spot out of the wind.’ Fortunately Taryn, Gigi, Cyndi, Anya and I - plus two male dancers to take care of the women and gays - were traveling light with small costume cases, a shoe case, our slit-kits and plenty of FC2 condoms so we could get it all in the back of a thirteen passenger van. There was a problem in Texas where the commanding officer balked after originally approving our show. He wanted a sample so Anya did him wearing an FC2. But we had that happen last year in San Francisco too so it wasn’t really a surprise. After he was pleasured the show went on. The guys and girls all wanted to keep the Used FC2s as souvenirs. They really enjoyed our visits! I was so pleased that we were able to help boost their morale. Being injured and away from home at Christmas is a real downer.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The 2010 Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice at Stonehenge

Wishing everyone the joys of the Holiday season

A Full Moon this Winter Solstice 2010: The exact time for the Winter Solstice (in the northern hemisphere) at Stonehenge is December 21st, 11.39pm (UK time). The sunset on the 21st is at 3.53pm and the sunrise on the 22nd of December at 8.04am. Exceptionally, we can also expect a full moon on December 21st. Since 1793, when The Old Farmer’s Almanac began tracking heavenly events and seasonal changes, the Moon has been full on the first day of winter just nine times. The next occurrence will be in this Winter Solstice.

NASA Science News Dec. 17, 2010: “Everyone knows that "the moon on the breast of new-fallen snow gives the luster of mid-day to objects below." That is, except during a lunar eclipse. The luster will be a bit "off" on Dec. 21st, the first day of northern winter, when the full Moon passes almost dead-center through Earth's shadow. For 72 minutes of eerie totality, an amber light will play across the snows of North America, throwing landscapes into an unusual state of ruddy shadow.

The eclipse begins on Tuesday morning, Dec. 21st, at 1:33 am EST (Monday, Dec. 20th, at 10:33 pm PST). At that time, Earth's shadow will appear as a dark-red bite at the edge of the lunar disk. It takes about an hour for the "bite" to expand and swallow the entire Moon. Totality commences at 02:41 am EST (11:41 pm PST) and lasts for 72 minutes.

If you're planning to dash out for only one quick look - it is December, after all - choose this moment: 03:17 am EST (17 minutes past midnight PST). That's when the Moon will be in deepest shadow, displaying the most fantastic shades of coppery red.”

Personal Comment: Taryn and Tanaquil arrived this afternoon. I was worried about them getting out of the UK with all the snow, but the General Aviation strip they used was better prepared than the much larger international airports. Or perhaps they were lucky, or both. My readers in the US and Canada will be able to see the lunar eclipse in its entirety. For readers in the UK and Western Europe the eclipse will be only partially visible, decreasing in visibility the further east you go.

Since I have a house full of family and guests for the next few days and some of us will be touring some near by military hospitals for a day or two I may not be posting as often as I would otherwise or perhaps I will, depending on where I find Wi-Fi hotspots.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pointe shoe quiz December 20, 2010

What is the girl standing in the box putting on her shoes and why?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

hors d’oeuvres for my Christmas party

The progestin Aygestin (norethindrone acetate)

Taryn is flying home: Taryn and her body guard Angie will be home on the 20th and I’m so excited! We will be making our annual rounds of Army and Navy hospitals in the surrounding states from the 21st through 24th. The men are so glad to see us and get our sort of intimate physical and psychological care, the kind the military doesn’t provide. I sent Limnaea for Taryn and Tanaquil will be coming back with them for Christmas and New Years too. Taryn must be back in Cambridge by January 5th.

St Lucy’s girls as Party servers: Before they leave on Christmas break some of the more adventuresome of the ballet girls will be working as servers for my annual gaming industry party. They had auditioned and been selected several months ago so they could be trained for the party. It’s a bit more rigorous that you might think (unless you have been to one of my holiday parties before) as there is more to it than just passing among the guests serving canapés.

The guests, mostly male casino/hotel owners and major equipment vendors, are always looking for fresh faces and young bodies so I’ve selected seven or eight of the most gorgeous and talented students to work as part of the ‘tasting menu’ so there will always be a minimum of four or five girls circulating at any one time. As I mentioned, Tanaquil, The French Courtesan who runs the European operation of Taryn’s Adult Media Empire, will be flying in with Taryn for Christmas and will be overseeing the 17 y/o ‘hors d’oeuvres’ (as Tanaquil calls them) while they take interested men into one of several small lounges equipped with barres off the public rooms to demonstrate their technique, strength and stamina during an intimate ‘audition’ which usually results when a man’s interest is aroused. I’m available of course, but as hostess my time is limited. This is also a chance for the wives who usually swap partners too so there should be plenty of lovely available women and a few men for those who like boys. The lounges are stocked with condoms for those wanting anal sex and several bowls of various performance enhancers are scattered throughout the public rooms so men who think they may have a problem performing on short notice should be well taken care of.

Prepping the hors d’oeuvres: With that in mind I’ve been working with ten girls, eight primary and two alternates in case of sickness, for the last several months to prepare for the party making sure that details are taken care of, like: Full body waxes – except eyebrows and scalp hair - five days before the party. Moving a girls period, using a 5 mg tablet of the progestin Aygestin (norethindrone acetate) taken daily, to delay ovulation so the girls will all be fertile on the day of the party. I’ve been rechecking the fit of their training plugs which they will all be wearing while circulating along with Gaynors and harem pants, peek-a-boo tops and veils. The costumes are all made of silk Hermes scarves. The girls will have training plugs inserted so a bold guest won’t be able to finger fuck his choice while she is circulating among the guests in the public rooms, but will have to take her in to a lounge to get her plug out to fondle her vulva or penetrate her.

With Balanchine bodies and waxed pubes some of the 17 y/os look as though they could be as young as 13 or 14 and that look is especially attractive to quite a few of the male guests who have fantasies of impregnating hard-bodied underage dancers so the hors d’oeuvres should be very popular. They give the impression of being illegal, but at an industry party there are always enemies who have to be invited so if one thinks s/he can get me in trouble by reporting me to the authorities we can always produce their birth certificates. Of course for a family party with just close friends there are underage girls for those who want them, because I became sexually active at 14 and I think 14 and 15 y/os should be allowed to have fun and gain valuable experience honing their developing social skills by being around powerful men.

Training plugs: Returning readers will remember that a St Lucy’s training plug is about half the length of a Penetrator and fits snugly in the ring of nerves just past the introitus with the usual anti-expulsion ridge secured behind the pubic bone and the removal loop lying flat along the wearer’s perineum. The outside is the standard Penetrator head that protects the vulva, mons veneris and clitoral shaft so the wearer can’t be fondled, but by applying pulsating pressure the wearer can be given a pressure orgasm. The hors d’oeuvres will wear Gaynors to show off their beautiful legs and to allow them to take men of different heights more easily while standing and being penetrated from the rear doggie style.

Hot loading an All-Flex: Another advantage of wearing a training plug is that a woman can still wear a diaphragm and for the party the hors d’oeuvres will all be wearing undersized All-Flex arcing spring devices because an All-Flex is the easiest to under-thrust. We have some men in the gaming industry who make it a habit to deliberately seek out partner’s who use diaphragms with the intention of purposely under-thrusting them. Since most diaphragms are the All-Flex arcing spring type women who are using them for shallow water (no deeper than 10 meters) dive-sex gas guard protection are not safe from that sort of predator. I deliberately refitted the girls with All-Flex diaphragms that are too small to make it easier for the men to under-thrust them. My hors d’oeuvres girls won’t have to be concerned about a possible pregnancy because they all have GyneFix IUDs implanted, but many of the casino owners girlfriends and mistresses have become pregnant from lack of or incorrect birth control training.

Contraceptive myths: Girlfriends and mistresses thinking they couldn’t be impregnated during sex underwater was their first mistake and was very common when dive-sex first started catching on out here. Believing they would be protected effectively from pregnancy because they had an All-Flex inserted was another. An All-Flex is very effective (about 96%) during vanilla sex. However, when the woman is with a lover who is fond of - and good at - under-thrusting the rim of her All-Flex and unloading five to seven ml of semen in its dome so the tip of her cervix is immersed in a pool of high sperm-count semen for at least six hours, the effectiveness drops dramatically and nearly half the young women fertile during an under-thrust encounter usually end up pregnant if no other effective method of birth control is being used.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Lack of attention to detail

The Bellagio Hotel/Casino Resort

Bellagio bandit will have a hard time cashing in his chips
By Brett Michael Dykes
Wed Dec 15, 4:14 pm ET

By now you may have heard about a man in a motorcycle helmet who entered the famed Bellagio casino in Las Vegas -- the same gambling palace that a motley crew of criminals led by George Clooney knocked over in "Ocean's Eleven" -- early Tuesday morning and made off with at least $1.5 million at gunpoint.

But initial reports didn't mention that most of the enterprising bandit's take was in casino chips rather than hard cash. If he sets out to turn in those chips for actual money, he will be running a considerable risk -- especially if he turns up at the scene of the crime trying to cash out some of the $25,000 chips he made off with. Those chips rarely get circulated at the casino's cashier windows, and the bosses at places like the Bellagio tend to monitor pretty closely any transactions involving them. (In theory, of course, the bandit could recruit an accomplice to act as a front person in the money swap, presumably for a cut of the payout -- but the same scrutiny for anyone cashing in big-stakes chips would still apply in that scenario.)

Indeed, longtime observers of the casino business say that the bandit has constructed a rather elegant trap for himself, should he want to convert his winnings into a personal economic stimulus plan. David Schwartz, director of gaming research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he "can't think of any way" the robber could return to redeem the chips without being caught.

"It's not like they're currency that you can use anywhere, Schwartz told the paper. "If you steal so many chips, in such a big, dramatic way, there's going to be a lot of scrutiny at the casino, and that makes it very difficult to cash in."

While the casino industry is highly secretive about the security measures it takes, many experts believe it's likely that the chips used in big casinos like the Bellagio are embedded with tiny electronic devices so they can be tracked and identified.

And this is evidently not a wrongdoer who's likely to learn from past mistakes. Police believe the same robber made off with about $20,000 in chips from the Las Vegas Suncoast Casino a few days earlier. We imagine him sitting in a poorly lit apartment staring at the chips right now trying to figure out how to cash them in -- good luck with that, pal.

Nevertheless, the miscues of the Bellagio bandit, as self-defeating as they may be, still aren't really enough to distinguish him in the company of some of the most wayward legal offenders of the past yea.

There is, for instance, Calvin Hoover of Salem, Oregon, who last year repeatedly called 911 to report that someone had stolen an ounce of marijuana from his truck, an act of foolishness that turned him from victim to criminal in a matter of hours.

And then there was Sterling F. Wolfname, a murder suspect on the run from police in Billings, Montana, who was caught by police when they spotted a man who had "Wolfname" tattooed on the side of his head. That inattention to detail has already landed Wolfname on the list of the 21st century's 21 dumbest criminals.

Oh, and let's not forget Douglas Gardner of Vermont, who picked up his eighth DUI just days after spending 20 years in prison for killing a man in the course of committing his seventh DUI.
With apologies to McGruff the Crime Dog, these guys appear to be doing all they can to take the bright out of crime.

Personal comment: Here’s the news report before someone asks me about it. We don’t talk about casino security, so please don’t ask.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pointe shoe quiz December 14, 2010

Who is the maker of this dancer’s shoes?
What change has she made to her right shoe and why?

Pointe; on the making of Black Swan

The "Swan Lake" corps, including Natalie Portman as Nina

Pointe Magazine
By Jennifer Stahl
Published in the December 2010/January 2011 issue.

The Price of Perfection

Sarah Lane is standing onstage holding a syringe of fake blood. “When do you want me to start dripping it?” she yells out to the house. It’s the last day of filming the dance scenes in Black Swan, and I’m sitting next to director Darren Aronofsky inside SUNY Purchase’s Performing Arts Center. The atmosphere on set reminds me of a tech rehearsal as dancers stand around waiting while crew members fiddle with the lights. But the combination of familiar dancer faces, high-profile Hollywood big shots and the bizarre scene they’re filming seems almost surreal.

A crew member comes over to suggest that they digitally sub the blood in later, using the same technique the director did with the staples in Mickey Rourke’s skin in The Wrestler. Aronofsky says no. He wants to try it with the real (fake) blood. I cringe, imagining how each 30-second take is going to ruin a perfectly good pair of $80 pointe shoes.

The word “rolling” echoes three times through the theater and Act III Swan Lake music screeches out of the speakers. The corps, dressed in white swan tutus with gray scratch marks around their eyes and blackened finger tips, runs in Petipa’s familiar patterns. Lane rises to bourrée and starts squeezing the syringe. A camera rolling at ankle level trails after her pointe shoes, which are quickly drenched in red. It’s clear that this is not going to be your typical dance film.

With any new movie about ballet, dancers both anticipate and dread Hollywood’s take on their world. Black Swan, the latest addition to the genre, hits theaters December 1. But while Aronofsky includes a few of the expected clichés—bulimic purging, a pushy stage mom, the requisite pointe shoe breaking-in and bloody-foot shots—the movie is a much darker depiction of dancers than what usually makes it to the screen. Black Swan is less an intimate portrait of life in the studio and more a horror film about obsession gone awry, the moment when dedication becomes destruction. Even the color pink takes on a menacing tinge.

The story focuses on a performance of Swan Lake and mirrors the ballet’s plot—but takes it in a nightmarish direction. Nina (Natalie Portman), an eager, naïve soloist at a fictional New York City ballet company, has just been cast as Odette/Odile, and is determined to be “perfect” in her first principal role. Yet she has been so sheltered by her life in ballet that embodying the black swan’s sensuality becomes an agonizing struggle. The company’s artistic director (Vincent Cassell) urges Nina to let go, to lose control, to be more like Lily (Mila Kunis), a new company member who effortlessly oozes sex appeal—and who also looks eerily like Nina and seems to be angling for her part. As Nina follows the director’s advice, she becomes possessed by her desire to pull off an impeccable performance. The line between reality and hallucination grows murkier for both her character and the audience in increasingly bizarre, even gruesome scenes. A sinister version of Tchaikovsky’s score plays through nearly every scene, creating an intensely dramatic backdrop.

The corps is supplied by Pennsylvania Ballet dancers on post-Nutcracker layoff, plus a handful of freelancers. Portman and Kunis were given ballet back up by American Ballet Theatre’s Sarah Lane and Maria Riccetto, respectively. The two perform as body doubles in studio and stage scenes, dancing Swan Lake choreography that has a slightly contemporary update courtesy of New York City Ballet’s Benjamin Millepied. “Ben wanted to keep the classical choreography,” says Aronofsky, “but I told him to make it funkier. Now it even has traces of the funky chicken.”

With such high-powered ballet talent, it’s disappointing how little dancing made it into the final product. And a few balletic missteps are distracting: There’s oddly only one cast with no understudy, and the lead is never called “Odette/Odile,” but “Swan Queen.” However, behind the heavy-handed horror, Aronofsky captures the mentality of a perfectionistic, self-destructive dancer with disturbing accuracy. By cutting the film loose from the confines of realism, he shows from the inside out the psychological toll that ballet takes on dancers.

Still, building an R-rated thriller out of the world of ballet seems like an odd choice. Aronofsky, though, says it was simply a natural consequence of taking everything—from the characters to the colors of the sets and costumes—from the original ballet. “If you look at Swan Lake, it’s actually very gothic, dark and tragic,” he says. “When you turn the fairy tale into a real-world story, that tone carries over.”

Aronofsky began working on the project about 10 years ago when he came across a script titled The Understudy, set in the world of off-Broadway theater. He had always been fascinated by ballet (his sister studied it seriously growing up), so he hired a writer to revamp the screenplay using Petipa’s ballet as a jumping-off point. “Ballet was something that I never understood or grasped, but was a world unto itself,” says Aronofsky. “And, like wrestling, it’s a world most people haven’t seen from the inside.”

He made a couple of movies in the interim, but Black Swan stuck in his mind. So after wrapping The Wrestler, he decided to dust off the script and examine performers on the opposite end of the high-low art spectrum. “We spent a year researching to fully understand the psychology of a ballerina, the nuances and character traits,” says producer Scott Franklin. Dancers such as former NYCB principal Heather Watts and ABT’s Gillian Murphy and Julie Kent provided the filmmakers with insight and backstage access. “I started to realize this profession is incredibly difficult and very painful, even,” Aronofsky says. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, how do I capture that?’ ”

Key to his vision was casting an extremely capable screen actress who could dig deep into the mind of a disturbed dancer. He hired Portman, who did her homework as well, immersing herself in the world of ballet to fully understand her character. “I was definitely inspired by the type of dancer who’s a ‘bunhead,’ very much infantilized by her work,” says Portman, whose ingenious performance is already receiving Oscar buzz. “There’s the high-pitched voice, the desire to please, the total surrender to a male director.”

To conquer the balletic demands of the role, she took daily private classes for 10 months before filming, and got additional swan-specific coaching from the late ABT ballet mistress Georgina Parkinson. “Getting the arms right was especially important for me because much of the film is shot very close up,” Portman says. Lane stands in for the character’s major dancing in wide shots (sometimes using digital face replacement technology) as well as in close-ups on the hands and feet. But Portman does the majority of her own dancing, mostly in the takes that focus on her upper body. Although she is sometimes stiff and awkward, her swan arms are surprisingly convincing.

While Portman spent days in the studio working on choreography, the professional dancers were given only a handful of hours to learn their steps. They rehearsed briefly before filming to make any needed adjustments, such as tweaking traffic patterns to accommodate the cameraman. “The most challenging part was to repeat every single movement thousands of times,” says Riccetto. Sarah Hay, who plays one of the corps dancers in the film, adds that they had to keep pushing themselves for each take, since they never knew which was going to be used. Most saw this as an opportunity they don’t get with live performance. “We would work for hours on one tiny set of movements, just perfecting and perfecting them,” Lane remembers. From talking to the dancers about the filming process, it’s apparent just how astutely Aronofsky captured their perfectionism.

In a way, the authenticity with which Black Swan highlights this particular dimension of ballet draws attention to what Aronofsky left out: the thrill of moving, the joy of creating art with your body, the high of a great performance. Black Swan is a brilliant snapshot of ballet’s dark side. But, although we all know the vicious black swan is the sexier role, it’s too bad moviegoers will miss out on seeing the beauty of the white.

Jennifer Stahl is Pointe’s senior editor.

Personal comment: Another take on the film. Black Swan is not yet playing here, Sigh! It’s nice to see that ABT dancers Sarah Lane and Maria Riccetto are mentioned as body doubles for the foot, leg and long shot scenes where technique matters. The link to the above article is HERE.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Public schools and Sex-Ed

A Semina coil spring diaphragm on its introducer

About this photo: The silicone Semina diaphragm is used as a starter gas guard for students at St Lucy’s while training for underwater sex. The introducer on which this one is mounted helps women with short fingers or long vaginas to insert it correctly.

The Boston Globe

Students find more sex than education
By Joanna Weiss
December 12, 2010

IF TEENS AREN’T going to get sex education from their parents, and they aren’t going to get it from their schools, then they’re going to get it somewhere. From music. Or TV. Or each other. And so, according to high school students from Jamaica Plain, here are some things their friends think they know about sex: That you can’t get pregnant if you have sex in water. That if you have oral sex, you won’t get an STD. That there’s no point in wearing a condom because it will probably break.

Hear this, and some of the current statistics about teen health in Boston become a little clearer.

Teen pregnancy rates have dropped over the past decade — the result, public health officials believe, of the increased availability of chemical birth control. But chlamydia cases are rising at alarming rates, a sign that teens don’t understand that certain types of birth control — and certain types of sex — don’t protect you from disease.

In other words, the burden of contraception falls largely on girls. Acting alone leaves them vulnerable. And sex education, for girls and boys, is haphazard at best. Some kids happen to attend a school that offers a meager program. Some attend one of the handful of schools where the Boston Public Health Commission or some third party has a clinic. But many get nothing, or not nearly enough.

Now, students are asking for more; a coed group of teens from JP’s Hyde Square Task Force is lobbying for comprehensive sex ed, including information about healthy relationships and, yes, free condoms for all. Not a bowl of Trojans sitting on a shelf, but a couple of designated adults in every school — ideally, one male, one female — who could distribute condoms to kids who ask, without passing judgment.

The kids are committed; they’ve put together an honest, funny video that states their case. If politicians are willing to be just as brave, we’re in good shape.

And there are definite signs of hope. The Boston Public Schools recently created a new Health and Wellness Department. The school system is partnering with the public health commission to develop a system wide sex ed program. City Councilor Ayanna Pressley has scheduled a hearing on sex ed and condom distribution.

But this kind of talk makes politicians and the public skittish. So it’s worth reminding everyone of the facts. According to the public health commission, nearly 70 percent of Boston teens report having sex by the time they’re 18. About half of sexually active teens have had three or more sexual partners by age 17.

Studies of condom distribution programs in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York schools have shown that making condoms easily available doesn’t increase the number of kids who have sex. It merely increases the number of kids who use condoms. And even kids who might use condoms, if they were close at hand, will tell you they won’t bother to ask a stranger at the drugstore to open a locked cabinet.

They might, however, ask an adult they trust. And while it’s easy to say they ought to be asking their parents, Massachusetts law does not require parental consent for access to contraception or reproductive health, says Deborah Allen, who heads the health commission’s Child and Adolescent Family Health Bureau.

Besides, as teens from the Hyde Square Task force said, there are often giant barriers to talking about sex at home. Sometimes, it’s a matter of culture. Sometimes, it’s logistics: parents work two jobs, teens are caring for younger siblings, and there isn’t much time for sensitive conversations.

As Pressley and Allen point out, many parents have been asking for sex ed in Boston schools, too. They understand that kids need all the help they can get, combating a culture that makes sex look cool, or lets boys convince girls that sex is the best way to prove their love. As 17-year-old Samantha Brea said, “A lot of songs just talk about sleeping with all of these women. You don’t have a song saying, ‘Oh, let me put on a condom before I sleep with you.’ ’’

The music industry isn’t very good at education. That’s what schools are for.

Personal Comment: Here in Vegas our school district’s sex education curriculum remains unchanged — it is abstinence based, although students do learn about contraception. Can you imagine an abstinence based sex-ed program in Vegas? Through our clinic we try to encourage the patients to teach their children about responsible birth control and STI protection. At St Lucy’s because the girls are all taught intimate skills in conjunction with the other arts we take comprehensive sex education very seriously.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Legalizing Internet Poker in the U.S.

Fiona loses a hand

The Washington Post
By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 11, 2010

Legalizing Internet poker gets push from Harry Reid in lame-duck session

As it scrambles to consider landmark legislation on taxes, immigration and gays in the military, the lame-duck Congress is suddenly engaged in a debate it didn't anticipate: whether to legalize online poker.

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) is pushing a bill that would give official government approval to Texas hold-'em, five-card stud and other Internet poker games, which currently exist in a legal twilight zone dominated by companies operating from the Isle of Man and other exotic foreign locales.

The idea is to lure some of that multibillion-dollar business into the United States - and give the federal government up to $3 billion in annual revenues in the process.

The measure would be a boon for Las Vegas-based casinos, which supported Reid in his hard-fought reelection campaign and are eager to enter the lucrative world of online gaming. Many states and localities, including the District, have started thinking about legalizing Internet gaming on their own, giving federal lawmakers even more incentive to act.

"Under the status quo, Internet poker is played by millions of Americans every day in an essentially unregulated environment," Reid said in a statement this week. "The legislation I am working on would get our collective heads out of the sand and create a strict regulatory environment to protect U.S. consumers, prevent underage gambling and respect the decisions of states that don't allow gambling."

The bill's chances are uncertain at best, and Democratic staffers are struggling to find a way forward that doesn't bog down other legislation. But backers say the proposal offers the best odds yet for online-poker proponents, who until now have gained little traction despite millions of dollars in lobbying and campaign contributions.

Many conservative groups and GOP lawmakers, however, strongly oppose the measure, seeing it as an official sanction of immoral behavior. Legalizing poker - or any other type of online gaming - is far less likely with Republicans in control of the House next year, according to many legislative aides and lobbyists.

Lawmakers in New Jersey and California are pushing ahead with plans to legalize online gaming in those states. D.C. Council member Michael A. Brown has proposed legalizing online poker and fantasy sports gambling as a way to slash the city's $200 million budget deficit.

The Senate poker legislation was written with help from major gambling and casino interests, who played a significant role in funding Reid's expensive reelection campaign, according to lobbyists and legislative aides. Reid has collected more than $1.6 million in contributions from gaming companies and their employees over the past two decades, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Two major Las Vegas casino companies, Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts International, also gave a combined $375,000 to an outside Democratic group, Patriot Majority, that ran election ads in favor of Reid this fall, records show.

Reid and his supporters say the bill is a common-sense and limited solution to the problem of unregulated online poker, which is played by an estimated 10 million Americans. Proponents say a 2006 law banning financial transactions for online gambling has had little discernible effect.

"Certainly Vegas interests will be well served by this, but this is first and foremost a consumer protection issue and an opportunity for job creation and revenue for governments," said John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance, a group that has ties to offshore gaming firms and has been pushing for legalization. "If lawmakers believe the status quo is acceptable, they're not facing reality."

Opponents say legalizing poker would harm families by encouraging reckless and problem gambling.

"Congress should not take advantage of the young, the weak, and the vulnerable in the name of new revenues to cover more government spending," Rep. Spencer Bachus (Ala.) and two other Republicans wrote in a letter to Reid.

Under Reid's proposal, the federal government would issue licenses for Internet poker operators under supervision of the Commerce Department. Approval would be limited to existing casinos, horse tracks and slot-machine makers for the first two years after the bill passes, limiting the ability of overseas companies to enter the market.

Only players inside the United States could be customers of licensed operators for the first three years. The bill would also allow states to decide for themselves whether to allow Internet poker in their jurisdictions, according to a summary issued by Reid's office.

The Reid proposal is narrower than a House bill backed by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) that would legalize other online betting games such as mah-jongg. The poker bill, by contrast, would "make all other types of Internet gambling clearly illegal," Reid said.

The poker legislation marks a change of position for Reid, who was long considered an opponent of online gambling. Critics say the Democratic leader has flip-flopped as a favor to hometown casinos that have decided that the popularity of online poker offers them a lucrative business opportunity.

Focus on the Family, a conservative group, issued an "action alert" to supporters last week urging them to contact Reid and other lawmakers in opposition to "the largest gambling expansion effort in the history of the U.S."

The group said Internet gambling would lead to severe "addiction and social costs . . . with numerous families, marriages and lives destroyed."

Reid initially toyed with adding the proposal to the tax-cut compromise between Republicans and President Obama but decided against it amid concerns that it would further complicate that bill's chances for getting passed, according to lobbyists and aides. The measure could be added to an omnibus spending bill or other must-pass legislation in coming days.

Personal comment: Fiona, Cyndi’s Mom, has been lobbying Senator Reid not to switch his position and try to bring the bill to a vote because the Isle of Man is a part of the UK. It would seem that she failed to persuade him, but the future of bill even if it is brought up for a vote is far from certain. Support from Las Vegas gambling interests (during Senator Reid’s recent successful reelection campaign) have now placed him solidly behind legalization of on-line poker.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Men en pointe II

Nina Enimenimynimova (left) in rehearsal

The New York Times
December 9, 2010
Radical Turn for the Trocks’ Youngest Sylph

It’s a classic tale of struggle and determination, of hard work and enterprise, of the journey from a small town to the big city. It’s the tale of the passage from the East to the West, and of the transformation of a young Chinese boy into, well, a ballerina. More precisely (say it slowly), into Nina Enimenimynimova. Now say it faster: EE-nee-MEE-nee-MIN-i-MOH-va.

That’s the stage name for Long Zou, the youngest dancer in Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, an all-male company that has achieved worldwide fame by putting its dancers on point and in tutus to romp through some of ballet’s most famous works. The ensuing comedy comes from the conceit that this is an old-fashioned Russian ballet company, full of larger-than-life divas (complete with stage names) and overblown egos. But the Trocks, as they are usually called, also pay loving homage to the cult of the ballerina and faithful attention to choreography, often performing historical gems little seen elsewhere.

It seems an unlikely job for Mr. Zou, 21, whose upbringing and training involved little exposure to anything other than traditional ballet, and whose rapier-sharp technique and youth would probably have easily won him a job in a conventional ballet company.

“In the old days it was an older crowd that came to dance with us towards the end of their careers,” said Tory Dobrin, the company’s artistic director, during a rehearsal at the 42nd Street Studios on Monday. “In my generation joining the Trocks was a career wrecker; now we are getting dancers out of the academies.”

Mr. Dobrin attributes the change to social and cultural adaptation to homosexuality over the last decades.

“When we started we were a cult attraction,” he said. “Thirty years later we have been seen in 500 towns all over the world. Most dancers have seen us, on video if not live.”

Mr. Zou was one of those far-flung dancers who saw the Trocks on film during his years at a ballet school in Guangzhou, China, a nine-hour train ride from his home in Liling, a small town in Hunan Province. He had struggled to get his parents to send him to local dance classes at 10 after a teacher suggested that he had talent, and had to persuade them again after he was accepted by the Guangzhou school.

“They were ambitious for me to go to university,” said Mr. Zou, who is slight and soft spoken but clearly possessed of considerable will. Eventually they agreed, and at the school, a training ground for the Guangzhou Ballet, Mr. Zou found himself following a near-military schedule. Students ran for 30 minutes before morning dance classes, attended academic classes in the afternoons, and had homework and more dance practice in the evenings. Sometimes, in dance class, they would be given 100 grands battements (one leg thrown high to front, side or back).

“The first years were hard,” he said in English. “Everything was regulated: where you put a glass down, how you made your bed. You could only call your parents once a week, and we only went home twice a year.”

Mr. Zou thrived, nonetheless, and secretly nurtured a growing desire to dance abroad. “In China we don’t have news from outside, and it’s hard to get out,” he said. “There is no Facebook no YouTube, it’s very limited what you can see. When I told my mother and uncle that I might want to dance elsewhere, they laughed at me.”

In his final year Mr. Zou lobbied the school director to send him to the 2007 Prix de Lausanne, an international competition for young dancers.

“If the person doesn’t do well, sometimes it is difficult for everyone, because it has to be reported to the government,” he said. The director eventually agreed to write the necessary letter, but his parents paid for the trip, and he went with little preparation and no coach.

He made it through to the semifinals and was offered a scholarship to the Central School of Ballet in London. During his year there, he said, his artistic education really began.

“I saw a completely different dance world,” he said. “In China, they tell you, this is right or wrong. You can never doubt your teachers. In London, I understood you can move in this way or another way. There were so many possibilities.”

Mr. Zou had always liked dancing on point — “when the girls started, I would do it for fun” — and when he heard that the Trocks would be coming to London, he remembered that his school friends had jokingly told him that he should join the company. He e-mailed Mr. Dobrin to request an audition, but had to return to China when an extension of his British student visa was denied. In March 2009 he managed to arrange an audition in New York, where he was participating in the Youth America Grand Prix competition.

“Initially I wasn’t that interested, because we travel so much, and it’s a nightmare to get visas for non-Americans,” Mr. Dobrin said. “But I saw a really beautifully trained dancer, in the Russian style, which is important for us. And even though he is super-shy, I could tell he is a bit of a character.”

Mr. Zou joined the company almost immediately on a tour to Japan, baptized by Mr. Dobrin as Ms. Enimenimynimova. (She is described on the Trocks’ Web site as “an elfin charmer to be likened to a lemon soufflé poised delicately on the brink of total collapse.” His male persona, Ketevan Iosifidi, is “an artist in the classical, heroic, tragical mold.”

Mr. Zou said: “In the beginning you have to get used to dancing on point, and the bruised nails and blisters,” he said. “The way you balance and turn is different; you have to learn to adjust your weight. But it’s fun too. I grew up taking everything very seriously. It’s nice to do crazy things onstage.”

Despite their initial opposition to his career, his parents are not judgmental about his current job, he said. “In Chinese opera the men play everything,” Mr. Zou remarked. “There is no problem with the Trocks.”

Personal comment: It’s always nice to see someone with talent becoming successful and there are so few positive accounts of men in pointe shoes. Since I have male readers who would like to have been as successful on their toes as he is I thought it would be nice to post this to show that it can sometimes be done.

Blog Archive

Lijit Search



About Me

My photo
Powys , Wales, United Kingdom
I'm a classically trained dancer and SAB grad. A Dance Captain and go-to girl overseeing high-roller entertainment for a major casino/resort