Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Happy Blog Birthday Number 11

11 years done, starting year 12.

A somewhat erratic and enthusiastic post launched this humble but lovable blog. Visions of multiple posts per day flew about my brain but pretty quickly I saw that would not be the case. Amid a cacophony of online voices and corporate blog productions, I realized I could take my time, my own sweet, sweeeet time. Not much clickbait here, no advertising, just me and you humble but lovable readers. 

I am still here, many are no longer publishing. 

Thousands of posts have been written and published by myself, thousands more never made the cut. For reasons I cannot offer, the most read post on this page has been this one right here. You are welcome to ponder on why that is so.

There have been many, many posts on politics - but sadly it seems Tennessee's governing bodies have successfully eliminated all but the voices of a single political party in Tennessee. Only Republicans dominate, all other voices are dismissed and demonized and most recently they have been flatly outlawed by the state legislature -- Tom Humphrey explains that every county election commission is forbidden currently from having a Democrat chair such a commission - no minority voices allowed.

"The cited law, enacted earlier this year by the Legislature to take effect on July 1, declares that all county election commission chairmen must be members of the political party representing a majority of the commission. Under separate state law, Republicans have a majority on all county election commissions and on the State Election Commission as well."

So, yay Freedom. I live in a state where a single political party rules and has ruled for some years. I'm not saying they are bad folks - I'm saying my views, my voice, and that of many more Tennesseans, are not heard, not acknowledged, not allowed and that reality comes at a price.

The other most common posts here over the years are about movies, and I recently watched again a comedy favorite which I shall share - it's called "The Impostors", a slapstick comedy following two dim-witted out-of-work actors forced to stow away on a luxury cruise headed to Paris. The cast is chock-full of great performers - Isabella Rossellini, Tony Shaloub, Allison Janey, Woody Allen, Steve Buscemi, Oliver Pratt, Billy Connelly and many more. Worth a look --




Thursday, August 04, 2016

Even More Nonsense from Donald Tantrump

The stunningly ridiculous presidential race shows no sign of slowing down.

Honestly, the Trump thing takes daily and sometimes hourly leaps deeper and deeper into surreal and stupid and the just plain embarrassing. Those Republicans who helped build a "Tea Party" now have something more like the Mad Hatter's tea party, though the Hatter scene in Alice In Wonderland at least makes sense.

And it's amusing how folks who NEVER balked at speaking out claim the Trump Train is powered by the somehow brand spanking new idea of - you guessed it - speaking out.

Take this tidbit from aging celeb Clint Eastwood - Americans are pussies, apparently raised to be meek losers .... but hey Clint, didn't you help raise the generation you despise? Poor fellow, he's still haranguing empty chairs.

If the GOP campaign gets any more self-absorbed, the could create an implosive blast that could be seen and felt in the Andromeda galaxy.

We may need a new word to describe this 2016 season ... like ... The Full-Blown Tantrump.

'Cause he does love babies ... wait, I mean he hates babies. Or something. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Gunfight at the We're Not OK Corral


Not to be negative, America, but we are not ok. 

It is not ok to get armed far beyond the teeth or eyebrows or cowlicks, and shoot as many people as possible. 

It is not ok to perceive every person who might be different from you as an immediate threat to Life As We Know It.

Some mistake in the brain's wiring, some horror repressed from an abusive relationship, something becomes not ok in the thinking of the deranged. I recently wondered, given the discovery of knowingly lead-poisoned water in one city's water supply - and the seemingly monthly massacre shootings we are confronting - how many cities across America for how many decades have had tainted water supplies? 

Lead poisoning at low levels - especially in the young - have critical consequences, as noted here by the World Health Organization:

"Blood lead levels that were considered previously to be safe are now understood to compromise health and injure multiple organs, even in the absence of overt symptoms. The most critical consequence of low level lead toxicity in utero and during childhood is damage to the developing brain and nervous system. The immune, reproductive and cardiovascular
systems are also adversely affected by relatively low levels of exposure to
lead ...
The consequences of brain injury from exposure to lead in early life are loss of intelligence, shortening of attention span and disruption of behavior. Because the human brain has little capacity for repair, these effects are untreatable and irreversible. They cause diminution in brain function and reduction in achievement that last throughout life."

Nationally, easily more than 100 cities have aging water supply infrastructure that's likely also supplying lead. And that's just one potential source of toxins that could permanently damage cognition and other vital mental functions.

It is not ok for a society to be consumed with warfare for as long as we have been - and again, perception is filtered through a distorted lens. Military weaponry, tactics and strategies surround us. 

It's not ok to execute a death blow to someone being arrested for traffic violations, even if the person is later learned to be a felon, because the death penalty is only to be exacted after the judicial system has examined the person. And while we're talking judicial system, it is not ok for prisons to be run by corporations for profit. The corporations demand inmates to make money, my god that's barbaric.

It's no ok to be a racist. A racist is not just ignorant, but actually dangerous to those around them, threatening social stability at every level. A racist politician is an even larger threat. It's not ok to be silent when you encounter racism - the ignorant who reveal such a characteristic desperately need education.

On a personal aside here, the recent weeks have been so very strange because the news of the day is so similar to a futuristic science-fiction dystopian society short story I wrote in my early teens. The tale followed events as a sniper, for some un-named protest, began shooting at random, but everyone is armed and some are eager to join in a gunfight because the media of the day celebrates the vigilante. The tale was gruesome (i was writing for shock value, and not that well). The society was constantly under fire, the population medicated with anti-anxiety pills, political views were always punctuated with a bullet. I'm horrified beyond words that the actual world I see today resembles in anyway my childish paranoid view of the future. That isn't ok either, the world deserves so much better than such a poorly written narrative.

Lastly, the jingoistic claim that all it takes to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun is now a proven ridiculous notion. A giant chunk of armed police on the scene in Dallas when one shooter appeared could not prevent the killings.  It is not ok to live every day like vengeful Earps and Clantons warring in the middle of town. Picking a side and joining in battle will never end the violence, it nurtures violence.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Collapse of European Unity

Britain's decision to leave the EU signals the end of over 50 years of social and political order, a time of historical peace and economic growth, begs the question of what order will replace it? 

For now, a powerful rising return of nationalism is seeking control - not to say wiser and perhaps better policies may arise - but since this anti-unity effort has grown from nationalism, then ....

An excellent essay at Washington Monthly comparing the most narrow of world views with the often demeaned policies of liberalism led by President Obama reveals stark contrasts. As he spoke in his Nobel Speech (quoted in the essay):

"I do not believe that we will have the will, the determination, the staying power, to complete this work without something more — and that’s the continued expansion of our moral imagination; an insistence that there’s something irreducible that we all share.

"We do not have to live in an idealized world to still reach for those ideals that will make it a better place…For if we lose that faith — if we dismiss it as silly or na├»ve; if we divorce it from the decisions that we make on issues of war and peace — then we lose what’s best about humanity. We lose our sense of possibility. We lose our moral compass."

Thursday, June 09, 2016

The Fans That Destroyed The Earth


Who should play the next James Bond?

Why should fans of 007 pick the next performer to play the role? Are they so scared in Hollywood or that lazy?

Too often the Internets gets blocked up with What Fans Want.

Well, if a Fan of some genre or media knows so much, why are they just Fans? Can't they get the jobs to make the stuff that gets Fans?

Fans churn out reviews of movies and tv and books that are old, new and unmade - like they're possessed, and yet it's always about someone else's works. Fans even make videos of themselves opening packages of what they are Fans of, and those videos have millions of Fans.

Perhaps we shouldn't have provided Internets space to Fan Fiction, Fan Movies and Mashups, just insane niches that feed Fan Entitlement. ("My Little Pony" has, for instance, expanded and distorted into a weird mix of Salvador Dali and Larry Flynt.)

I get it - we make things from the artifacts of our lives. I've done it, but not in any coordinated Fan Horde Attacks.

And the Internets is a machine that builds Fans. See this "Sexts, Hugs, and Rock'nRoll" article about the ongoing DigiTour of ... well, never heard of these folks until now so I'll call them Internets Idols:

"With full lips, Bieber bangs, and piercing blue eyes, Hayes has the unsalted-butter looks of the love interest on a CW show or the villain in a John Hughes movie. He dresses in the superficially alternative but fundamentally nonthreatening uniform popularized by Urban Outfitters and adopted by every (white) Cool Guy in every high school in America: jeans, skate shoes, graphic T-shirt or baggy tank top with the armholes cut low. He speaks slowly and indistinctly, with a soft North Carolina accent. He has beautiful teeth."

And all he (Hayes) does is make Fans.

Fan demands of casting and scripting are ridiculous, media makers use them for publicity, but it's too far - look what happened to the simple science fiction awards known as Hugos: a weird Fan Coup has butchered the proceedings.

You're a Fan of something? Great. Shut up. I'm working here. 

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Racism OK If Agenda Moves Forward?

I apologize in advance for making another post re: Trump, but there's a few things he and the Republican Party have decided to place on the record that are worth noting.

One is hardly a secret - Trump's racism. Since his initial campaign announcement, he has regularly labeled his racism as "common sense", including his most recent statement about a Federal judge from Indiana whose parents were immigrantsWhen Mr. Dickerson said there was a tradition in the United States, a nation of immigrants, against judging people based on heritage, Mr. Trump replied, “I’m not talking about tradition, I’m talking about common sense, O.K.?”


The press has covered his racism, asked him about it, and he brushes such questions off.

Tennessee Senator also brushed aside criticism of Trump but did say Trump will now "change" because he'll have to. Right. Giving him the office of President is the solution to his racism.

Pitiful Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House, said today Trump's racism is acceptable.

"Claiming a person can’t do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment,” Mr. Ryan continued. “I think that should be absolutely disavowed. It’s absolutely unacceptable. But do I believe that Hillary Clinton is the answer? No, I do not.”

"He said, “I believe that we have more common ground on the policy issues of the day and we have more likelihood of getting our policies enacted with him than with her.”

"I do absolutely disavow those comments. I think they are wrong. I don’t think they are right-headed. And the thinking behind it is something I don’t personally relate to. But at the end of the day this is about ideas. This is about moving our agenda forward.”

So I'm adding Mr Ryan's affirmation that the party accepts racism as long as his overall agenda moves forward. 




Friday, May 27, 2016

The Donald Trump Explained



It is no surprise the the wack-a-doodle candidate has won the day for Republicans, as that's pretty much been the New Standard for the GOP: rude, prone to wild exaggeration and outright deception, devotion to obsolete ideas, anger, anger and some more anger. Wack-a-doodle.

Such has been the norm since, oh, we all know it - since Barack Obama became the Democrat nominee and especially since his inauguration. It might have been labeled a non-stop Whisper-Smear Campaign, except they've never whispered their outrage. Only hyperbole fixes their rhetoric in place - policies are not opposed or debated factually, instead President Obama is Destroying America to the Point It Will Be Lost Forever and Ever Just Because He's Secretly a Something.

Who else could Republicans select from their field of bobble-headed pretenders? Ben Carson? Jeb!? No, not even the righteous indignation of Angry Senator Ted Cruz could capture the fervor of the faithful because he had a little too much piety in his patter. Piety? Screw that, says Trump. Screw everything - screw you, screw Mexicans, women, Muslims, well screw all brown folks, and screw the horse you all rode in on too. Get 'em outta here.

The faithful howl with derisive laughter at the wack-a-doodle peeing in the political punch bowl. And become loyalists.

Wisely, the GOP Machine applied only criticism to the Trump campaign since endorsing him would undercut his efforts - a convention floor fight, a new contender - none of that will appear. Better for the Machine to merely stand aside and watch until Trump's in power and reluctantly work with the fellow and should he fail spectacularly they'll shrug it off since "He's not one of us!"

He is, however, the candidate of our age - he's the Internet Troll who won't go away, who demands power, who claims to be an authority, who can't be argued with because he's just blustering a 160-characters per second per second and he's taken over the American Tumblr page  and just ruined the page which used to be pretty cool. His followers like it though, akin to the way some folks like the way the Three Stooges would bake wallpaper paste into the bread rolls and serve it up the gullible rich establishment folk. 

He's a perfect foil for Hillary Clinton - lifelong politician with a name the GOP despises. Truly, they should love her. She's like Nixon - driven to be in the White House, or in any office, hungry for it on a weird level. But she has her own Trump Outsider card - she's a woman who is wife of a despised man, and that's a powerful card never to be underestimated.

The Troll with a heart (hair? comb-over?) of gold is likely to win the day.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Every 1970s Movie Reviewed

This website I'm linking to is so good I hardly know where to start. The name nails it well - Every70sMovie. Every day writer-filmmaker Peter Hanson posts a review of a 1970s movie, a task he's been at since October 2010.

So yes, big. And an incredibly wide range of theatrical and TV movies are here. Random sample One:

The Devil's Widow (1970)
Only movie directed by actor Roddy McDowell, starring Ava Gardner and Ian McShane
Based on a Scottish myth, "The film begins at the sprawling Scottish estate of Michaela Cazaret (Gardner), a middle-aged woman of unclear national origin who populates her castle and its grounds with swinging young people."





Sample Two:
(this is one of my favorite 70s movies by far)

The Last of Sheila
written by actor Anthony Perkins and Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim, but this is no musical. The story is that Perkins and Sondheim and friends were game lovers, played many scavenger hunts, and this murder mystery movie grew from that. It's got a fantastic cast - James Coburn, James Mason, Raquel Welch, Dyan Cannon, and more rich-and-idle characters who find out too late they are all soon to be victims of revenge
Hanson calls it a "jet-set caper movie.


Not even the tip of the iceberg of this site, which also lists movies by title and a giant list of names of all the players. Just go read and get lost for a while.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Come See "Alice In Wonderland" at LMU

As previously mentioned, offline living has kept me away from posting, however I do want to share some of that offline life -

The following pictures are from the current show I've directed, "Alice In Wonderland", for Lincoln Memorial University. There are three shows left, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday all at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $10 at the door, $5 with a reservation by calling 423-869-6203.

I am so honored to be working for LMU and with these students and staff - so much talent and hard work is consistently visible. 





Monday, March 07, 2016

Where's My Cup of Joe?


Apologies again, Dear Reader and Humble Blog, for an extended absence. It's a dual whammy from being very busy working and utterly stunned by the depth of stupid in the political world.

Truly does any comment actually need to be made about the idiocy on display daily from Republican candidates and office holders who have yet to strike the bottom in their relentless effort to grind all governing to a halt?

Either you know what's up or you've not paid attention and gone dogmatically drunk along with the delusions.

Here, from October last year, my views on the state o' politics

"And the talking is being done by notably unqualified candidates here in the ol' U.S. of A, the sort of talking that cliched tin-pot dictators might spew from tiny podiums and dressed in over-decorated, ill-fitting military uniforms.Such candidates as Trump, Cruz, Carson, Fiorina, Rubio, Bush, and even whole rosters of state GOP candidates are the folks doing such talking today. It's pretty awful to hear and see.
On the Left, Hilary Clinton, even if elected will instantly be tarred with the 'unconstitutional presidency', as these talkers have labeled President Obama. And that would extend the current Insta-Rage crowd's fervor to even more unacceptable and unsustainable behaviors.
And there's Bernie Sanders, who has, for his career, been neither a Republican or a Democrat ...a pretty good indication he's probably the smartest guy in this particular political room of Potentials."


Things haven't changed much, so why repeat myself ad nausueum? 

So there's that.


And yes, I have been busy in offline world creating imaginary worlds - directing and producing plays as Artistic Director for Morristown's Theatre Guild and as directing plays as Artistic Director at Lincoln Memorial University. I am beyond thankful to be so busy. The process of group collaborations for the shows I do is likely why I maintain a very positive outlook on our world today. See, people from all walks of life get together, work together and create something unique and special worth sharing.

Currently I'm helping produce a stage version of "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" as a schools program for some 1000-plus students and I am directing what I know will be an amazing version of "Alice In Wonderland" at LMU where Wonderland is of a Steampunk reality (or surreality) See, I am a very fortunate person to have such opportunities.

All that being said, I will step up the postings since politically the nation is in the grips of some dangerous folk and it seems more and more voices of reason are required.

I'm here for you - not to point out the obvious - to give volume to those voices.

Here, let me share this (and I encourage you to check out KnoxViews often) - it indicates how any voice other than one is being ignored in Tennessee.

"Tennessee Legislature  'Honored' as 'Most Conservative' at CPAC"

Also, read Tom Humphrey to stay up to speed on the Tennessee political landscape:

Marsha Blackburn as Trump's V.P.?





Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Hateful 8: American Politics 2016


The Hateful Eight will eventually be classified as one of director Tarantino's most outspoken political movies (even more than the one where his characters kill Hitler, which is more Grindhouse than political).

Like the sprawling views of the American political landscape in 2016, Tarantino goes as big as the camera allows, in 70 mm, and within the frame the characters are all deeply paranoid about one another, they all feel stuck, alone, confined, they have hidden agendas which have devastating consequences, and there's the visceral hatreds about race and then there's this letter from President Lincoln which is a herald for legitimacy and high-minded democracy. And much of what is rolled out - from characters to plot points - are all rather sketchy on the truth. It's like a pack of arguing Facebook commenters trapped in a room.

Women are bashed even more just for being in the conversation, worse if they speak. The way she is treated, the effort made by each of the characters to describe themselves via their roles in the social order, aren't really made to create comfort in viewers - the opposite in fact - we question everyone too. The status quo is up for grabs, a newer America is emerging.

Walter Goggins' character Mannix is, as he describes it, the one person in the group who is moving with the changing times and seeking his own answers:

" ... if you look at the course of that dialogue and the way he constructed that scene and how Mannix leans in and pulls back, he gets extremely aggressive and extremely passive. Mannix ends it with this vitriolic, defensive posture for his father and the institutions for the South and what the South stands for, and then Marquis pulls out his gun and Mannix says, “[Puts on the character’s voice] Oh, no, no, no, you got me talking politics.”
---
"Mannix is constantly shifting. He’s a real interesting guy in an arrested state of development, and you feel that in the stage coach. Everything that comes out of his mouth, at least for me, is regurgitating a worldview he got from his father and the people around him. None of those thoughts are his own, because he’s not a man; he doesn’t have the ability to think for himself until later in the movie. It all starts in that carriage scene, man.

(One non-political realization from the movie - almost each time two people speak together, someone is gonna get killed.And even if not, that possibility haunts one-on-one conversation.)

Oh and no one really emerges well from the political swamp they are in - not much to be solved locked into this particular space and time, everyone is asking the wrong questions or not enough of the right ones.

It's a pretty damning social commentary. told like a Western yarn spun round the campfire.And yet, ever the cultural compiler in cinema, Tarantino also builds this tale through the tropes of a Mystery, a sort of Locked Room whodunnit. And that too underpins the political commentary - so many unknowns when living in such a paranoid world.

Here's a fascinating roundtable talk with Tarantino, Ridley Scott, David O. Russell, and other top directors talking about filmmaking - great stuff.

Here's a terrific interview with Jennifer Jason Leigh on DP/30's YouTube page, and he's got more with the whole cast.