Saturday, April 14, 2007
Here's their Top Ten:
10 | Tommy Frist
Co-founder • Hospital Corporation of America
Co-founder of HCA, for profit hospitals, and the key figure in Nashville’s identity as a global health care nexus (the city’s largest industry). Recently took company through its second leveraged buyout in its history, a $21 billion deal trumping all previous LBOs on Wall Street. Likely to steer public again in five years. Patriarch of one of Nashville’s wealthiest and most influential families who are among city’s greatest living philanthropists.
9 | Vicky Gregg
President & CEO • BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee
Leads Tennessee’s largest health insurer, recently selected to partner with the state and small business employers to provide health care insurance to working Tennesseans in the state’s new Cover Tennessee health care program. Expanding company through new subsidiaries—electronic health records and health management programming—forging the “New Blue.” Member, federal Commission on Systemic Interoperability, part of the Medicare Modernization Act. Overseeing $225 million-plus Chattanooga headquarters construction.
8 | James “Big Jim” Haslam II
Chairman • Pilot Corp.
Founded state’s second largest private company, co-owner of the largest operator of highway travel plazas in America and the largest seller of over-the-road diesel fuel. Company employs over 13,000 in 40 states and recently expanded footprint to Canada. Top Tennessee political fundraiser and currently (he is retiring soon) the most powerful University of Tennessee trustee (who gave school $34 million gift last year). Boards include First Horizon and Ruby Tuesday.
7 | John Petersen
President • University of Tennessee system
Chief operating officer of geographically diverse, well-staffed, multi-facility University of Tennessee system, making him a rare example of a person whose power is scattered from border to border in Tennessee. Now a few years in the position, and with a bold new strategic mission in place, Petersen is a person whose power is escalating fast as he emerges fully as a voice in statewide political and business circles.
6 | Ron Ramsey
Lt. Gov. • State of Tennessee
Blountville Republican who this year amassed the votes needed to at long last topple longtime Tennessee Lt. Gov. John Wilder from his Senate Speaker post. Vast new powers include selecting committee heads, determining the path of Senate legislation and serving as a roadblock to Gov. Phil Bredesen’s legislative agenda where deemed necessary by the GOP. Also appoints (or chooses not to re-appoint) citizen members to influential state boards and commissions.
5 | Jimmy Naifeh
House Speaker • Tennessee House of Representatives
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Amid political shake-up in the state Senate and U.S. Congress, Naifeh remains the iron fist of the Democrats in the state House, recently re-elected to his historic ninth term as Speaker. Covington lawmaker very seldom shares power with Republicans, wielding his legislative axe quietly but powerfully, using subcommittees to kill rival bills.
4 | Martha Ingram
CHAIRMAN • Ingram Industries
Matriarch of the over $2 billion Ingram family fortune. Chairman, Nashville-based Ingram Industries, a multi-billion dollar diversified private company among the largest in Middle Tennessee. Majority stockholder of Ingram Micro, the world’s largest technology products distributor, which she spun off. Arts benefactor extraordinaire who most recently chaired the fund-raising effort that culminated in the new $123.5 million downtown Nashville Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Boards include Vanderbilt and Weyerhauser.
3 | Fred Smith
Founder, chairman & CEO • FedEx Corp.
World-renowned businessman who created not just an industry in overnight air cargo delivery but also the ultimate economic magnet for Memphis by siting his operations there, making it the distribution/logistics/shipping capital of the world. As such, the Bluff City is home to an ever-increasing gaggle of smart companies that want to take competitive advantage of the direct connection Memphis offers to the global marketplace.
2 | J.R. “Pitt” Hyde Jr.
Chairman & CEO • Hyde Family Foundations
Founded retail auto parts giant AutoZone. Prime mover (largest local owner) attracting NBA’s Grizzlies to Memphis, fulfilling city’s dream of a pro sports franchise. Safeguarded city amid recent proposal (which fizzled) by prospective new team owners. Recent reports say Hyde may now buy the team outright. Board member FedEx and GTx, a public biotechnology company he founded, the poster child for city’s biotech push. Founding board member, Memphis Bioworks Foundation.
1 | Phil Bredesen
Governor • State of Tennessee
Won all 95 counties in November election, capturing the most votes by a gubernatorial campaign in state history—70%. Facing state Senate now fully under GOP control; but he’s armed with a clear mandate and the second term freedom to burn political capital where necessary. Terminated TennCare as we know it. Established statewide pre-K. Now working to hike the cigarette tax (raising $220 million for education), ban public smoking, buy up forestland, invest in alternative fuels research and implement his novel small business friendly health insurance program. Could end his term in office considered Tennessee’s most powerful governor ever.
The full list and article is here.
Friday, April 13, 2007
Whatever. All I know is "Grindhouse" was the most satisfying time at the movies for me in a long time. And the car stunts in Tarantino's "Death Proof" are jaw-dropping. Zoe Bell riding the hood of that car is just amazing. And Kurt Russell's girly screams as he gets his payback are hilarious. Maybe the audiences weren't up for all that for an Easter Weekend. Well, this is Friday the 13th, so haul yourself into "Grindhouse" and thank me later for the recommendation.
Speaking of Friday the 13th, I am both deeply proud and somewhat envious of my brother and his son on this day. They are working as extras in a movie being made in their hometown of Rome, GA -- and not just any old extras. They get to be zombies!!
The movie is called Dance of the Dead and my brother said last week he was pondering a plan to be a zombie-priest with a rig for an altar cross stuck in his chest. Yes, I have asked for photos of the momentous day. This makes the first time anyone in our family has been in a bona-fide zombie movie. Can't wait to see the final product when released next year. And I loved the plot outline on IMDB -- "On the night of the big Homecoming Dance, the dead rise to eat the living, and the only people who can stop them are the losers who couldn't get dates to the dance."
While this weekend offers seven (!!) movies opening, I return to my old habits of suggesting some movies now on DVD which bear repeated viewings.
First, the 1999 movie "Payback" starring Mel Gibson as a crook who is assumed to be dead and instead returns to demand his share of a heist that got him (almost) killed. This tough-as-nails noir thriller has some fantastic performances -- the always vile Gregg Henry as the double-crossing partner, Maria Bello as Gibson's sort of girlfriend, and Lucy Liu as a vicious, leather-chaps-wearing hooker.
A new version is out now, and I do mean new. Writer/director Brian Helgeland lost control of the final theatrical version of "Payback" and this week he got his version released on DVD I do like the theatrical cut very much, and usually Director's Cuts offer few changes, but this is truly a different movie. Entire characters are gone, there is a new soundtrack and the final third of the movie is all new. I own a copy of the theatrical release but this new one has been ordered and I'm looking forward to it. If you like lean, mean thrillers, this is a little gem worth repeated viewings.
Still unsure? Then let me add that "Payback" is a remake of the 60s classic "Point Blank" with Lee Marvin and is based on the novel by Donald Westlake, one of America's handful of excellent crime writers. The pedigree for "Payback" continues with Helgeland, who penned the Oscar-winning "L.A. Confidential."
Another 1990s movie jammed with street-realism I recommend is "Fallen Angels," from 1995 by director Kar Wai Wong. The story concerns a hitman and his manager-partner and a mute young man, whose lives all collide in the neon nights and cramped rooms of Hong Kong.
The movie is deeply indebted to the 1950s laconic thrillers of Jean Luc Goddard, filled with characters who embody alienation and isolation, drifters and oddballs who roam the streets in the wee hours of the morning. Wong's camera work is also a featured player here - hand held shots, often wide-angle, capturing the characters as they sit in blurry reflections of jukeboxes and dirt-streaked windows. It gets the claustrophobic feel of a city packed beyond reason with people whose lives endlessly stream past in the background and the foreground.
The city is a character too, and admittedly the movie often plays out like a student art film. Jagged and rough at times, and at others deliberately as composed as an art student photo exhibit. The movie demands you ride it all out and never wastes time spoon-feeding you with rational narratives. Wong also made another movie I've seen numerous times which is rich in textures and metaphors, "2046" and he's currently wrapping production on a remake of the Orson Welles thriller "Lady From Shanghai."
From the pages of Cinematical comes a most interesting reader survey, which I'm asking you to consider this week too. Celebrity crushes are one thing but I like this survey better -- If you could date a movie character, who would you pick?
Some of the answers submitted at Cinematical are here, and I must say the choices are - at best - really odd. It's as if no one has seen a movie prior to the year 2000.
Feel free to add your thoughts here. Me, I'll have to think some more on this topic and I'll offer my answers next week.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
I can recall with much clarity the day I picked up "Breakfast of Champions" in a bookstore in the old 100 Oaks Mall in Nashville in the mid-1970s, read the first page and fell in love with the book and the writer. It broke every rule I had been taught about writing in school and was one of the most powerful tales I've ever read. That book showed me that what I needed to do to be a writer was to believe in whatever writing voice I had, and to love my readers and my characters and to be honest with them and with myself. The rest would take care of itself.
Vonnegut was the best writing teacher I ever had, though we only met each other on the pages he penned. I got drunk on those pages, lost time, got dizzy, and would lift up my eyes from the page and look around to see if anyone had noticed that I had left the world and been ... somewhere else.
I remain astonished at how he could be simple and profound and silly and say so much is seemingly small ways. Little phrases have always stayed with me - So it goes ... diddley-squat ... chrono-synclastic infidibulum .... rented a tent a tent a tent ....
Vonnegut would occassionally provide commencement speeches for college graduations. Here is one he gave to grads at Rice University:
"Have we met before? No. But I have thought a lot about people like you. You men here are Adam. You women are Eve. Who hasn't thought a lot about Adam and Eve?
This is Eden, and you're about to be kicked out. Why? You ate the knowledge apple. It's in your tummies now.
And who am I? I used to be Adam. But now I am Methuselah.
And who is a serpent among us? Anyone who would strike a child.So what does this Methuselah have to say to you, since he has lived so long? I'll pass on to you what another Methuselah said to me. He's Joe Heller, author, as you know, of Catch 22. We were at a party thrown by a multi-billionaire out on Long Island, and I said, ''Joe, how does it make you feel to realize that only yesterday our host probably made more money than Catch 22, one of the most popular books of all time, has grossed world-wide over the past forty years?''
Joe said to me, ''I have something he can never have.''
I said, ''What's that, Joe?''
And he said, ''The knowledge that I've got enough.''
''The good opinion of our neighbors.''
Neighbors are people who know you, can see you, can talk to you -- to whom you may have been of some help or beneficial stimulation. They are not nearly as numerous as the fans, say, of Madonna or Michael Jordan.
To earn their good opinions, you should apply the special skills you have learned here, and meet the standards of decency and honor and fair play set by exemplary books and elders.
It's even money that one of you will get a Nobel Prize. Wanna bet? It's only a million bucks, but what the heck. That's better than a sharp stick in the eye, as the saying goes.
This speech is now almost twice as long as the most efficient oration ever uttered by an American: Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Lincoln was murdered for his ideals. The founder of this university, William Marsh Rice, another idealist, was murdered for his money. Whatever! The good both men did lives after them.
Up to this point this speech has been new stuff, written for this place and this occasion. But every graduation address I've delivered has ended, and this one will, too, with old stuff about my Uncle Alex, my father's kid brother. A Harvard graduate, Alex Vonnegut was locally useful in Indianapolis as an honest insurance agent. He was also well-read and wise.
One thing which Uncle Alex found objectionable about human beings was that they seldom took time out to notice when they were happy. He himself did his best to acknowledge it when times were sweet. We could be drinking lemonade in the shade of an apple tree in the summertime, and he would interrupt the conversation to say, "If this isn't nice, what is?"
So, I hope that you Adams and Eves in front of me will do the same for the rest of your lives. When things are going sweetly and peacefully, please pause a moment, and then say out loud: ''If this isn't nice, what is?'' Hold up your hands if you promise to do that.
That's one favor I've asked of you.
Now I ask you for another one. I ask it not only of the graduates, but of everyone here, including even Malcolm Gillis, so keep your eyes on him. I'll want a show of hands, after I ask this question:
''How many of you have had a teacher at any level in your educations who made you more excited to be alive, prouder to be alive, than you had previously believed possible?''
Hold up your hands, please.
Now take down your hands and say the name of that teacher to someone sitting or standing near you.
All done? Thank you.
If this isn't nice, what is?
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
"We’ve got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we’ve got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can’t even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, “Stay the course.”
Stay the course? You’ve got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I’ll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out!You might think I’m getting senile, that I’ve gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore."
That's an excerpt from an upcoming book by Lee Iacocca, "Where Have All The Leaders Gone?"
The full excerpt is here.
Today's news that the White House, attempting to reorganize (again) the running of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is having trouble finding a military official willing to take such a job is another troubling indication that the policies are floundering.
"The very fundamental issue is, they don't know where the hell they're going," said retired Marine Gen. John J. "Jack" Sheehan, a former top NATO commander who was among those rejecting the job."
Back when I started this blog, I wanted to expand and explore good writing first and foremost. Sometimes, I know, that I am guilty of plopping prose down here that can be, as a dear and now departed professor of mine used to say, "as dry as mummy dust."
And I know I often veer from topic to topic like drunken fiend fat with cash and bleary-eyed affection for the neon nights. I also know that sometimes having a worthwhile post is a true challenge requiring buckets of coffee and re-writes aplenty. The posts here can require too much time to read, or may ask the readers to go to a variety of other sites to read and review whatever crust of sand got stuck in my velvety-smooth insides which irritated me to the to point of trying to convert it into some pearl. My mom often says the posts are too long and I ramble some. Well, yeah, that'll happen.
So ok, the point of this post - my good friend and tireless web-writer and newspaper maven Newscoma was generous enough to nominate this humble but lovable blog for a Thinking Bloggers Award. Mucho thanko, NC. Your assessment of this page made me smile and maybe blush a wee bit.
In order to properly participate in such a weighty accolade, it falls now to me to nominate 5 blogs which make me think and ask them to join in this process too. As NC says:
"1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote
So be it. For the record - this was not easy for me to do, and I hate not to include all those whose blogs you can link to via this page. I hope you visit them all and I include them because they are fine places to visit and read. Here's my list of 5:
1. KnoxViews -- If you live in Tennessee and you don't read the offerings here, you're missing out. R. Neal and others have been expertly articulating viewpoints on not only local and state topics, but national ones too. Posts are typically well-researched, and also provide some plain spoken responses to much of the political world. Claims that it is a 'liberals only' blog miss the mark by a wide margin. Sometimes the discussions get heated, sometimes they get most hilarious. What I like best about KnoxViews: When a political policy is bogus or botched, it gets called out. When the Emperor Has No Clothes, KnoxViews says "Yo, bub - yer nekkid!"
2. Atomic Tumor -- Some great writing here, whether it's about music, raising a family, politics, culture or the Sunday haiku. I can't write a haiku but AT spins them out with ease and much humor. Some may recall the tragic reality that filled AT's life last fall as his wife suddenly took ill and died within weeks. AT stood like a giant in the midst of that and explored what it all meant with unflinching honesty. Some may have become readers because of that sad time, but I was already hooked on AT. AT can be a prolific writer, makes me kinda jealous. I am constantly enriched and rewarded for reading.
3. Tennessee Jed -- "Trying Hard Not To Make Matters Worse" is a heck of a credo. Others should remember it and act accordingly. All topics are here, and as with all those I am mentioning for this Thinking Bloggers Award, readers can discover a distinctive voice. He amplifies that voice with some great graphics and designs. Be sure to check out his design work page too. And his page has one of the hallmarks of a good blog - I always want more.
4. The Vol Abroad -- Another fine voice here, one that I only discovered in the past few months. But I quickly became a regular reader. A Tennessee gal living in London and awaiting the arrival of a new baby, The Vol writes on many topics too, from gardening to politics both London and U.S. And one of the ones I liked recently was her request for things she can't get in London, like Krystal's and catfish and hush-puppies. Baby Cletus is due to arrive in about 40 days. I hope The Vol still finds time to blog and to parent too.
5. The Coyote Chronicles -- Mack is fun to read, but be careful. You might learn a few things while you are smiling. I like how he does that. His recent post on Don Imus is a good example of his voice and his ability to tell a good story while trying to offer some insights into life in America.
One reason I selected these blogs is not just for what they have already done, but for the expectations I have for what they can do and will do. Yeah, the pressure is on now!
Her career-long nastiness and virulence gets an occasional news report, and she has lost outlets and advertisers in recent months for her lowbrow name calling. Most news outlets, for instance, have said little to criticizer her for her column last week as she bemoaned the idea that the genoicide in Darfur is taking too long. As if some more efficent and quicker efforts were used to kill the millions there would be a better thing.
"These people can't even wrap up genocide. We've been hearing about this slaughter in Darfur forever - and they still haven't finished. The aggressors are moving like termites across that country. It's like genocide by committee. Who's running this holocaust in Darfur, FEMA? This is truly a war in which we have absolutely no interest."
Her take on Imus? According to her, Imus should be praised for being "the only person who watches women's basketball."
Hell, even I watch women's basketball. A massive thunderstorm knocked out my reception for the UT-Rutgers match-up, sadly, but I did watch most of the UT-NC game and it was as intense a game as I've ever seen.
News Hounds reports on the odd disconnect as Coulter goes on (where else) the FOX Network to say Imus is apologizing too much. Others, I noticed this morning, are also asking much of the same questions about the constant media pass handed to Coulter.
I do think that Imus, with his program offered via television on MSNBC, has a far larger audience than Coulter has ever had, so perhaps that's why he is on the roasting spit du jour.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
A piercing and grim assessment was offered today in a column by Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, as he talks about a new book from Iraqi politician Ali Allawi, called "The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War and Losing the Peace". The bottom line here is that resolving the war and establishing a secure and peaceful Iraq continues to fall well short of success. A sample from the column:
"The book condemns the "monumental ignorance" of American war planners and the "rank amateurism and swaggering arrogance" of the occupation authority. Allawi had previously written that the Middle East is in a "death spiral" and that "another 100 years of crisis are being sown" in Iraq."
"So what's the solution? "I think the time has come for the United States to take the lead, actually, in doing a U-turn," this "adviser" to Maliki announced. "And by a U-turn I mean a fundamental turnaround in thinking in terms of -- strategic thinking in terms of what's important and what's not important in the Middle East. And you have to move from this military fixation to this new architecture."
The Washington Times also reports on the Allawi's book and speech.
Monday, April 09, 2007
There are many ways to allow or not allow comments, anonymous or otherwise. There are sites I go to not only for the info they offer, but for the comments. MetaFilter and Nashville is Talking always have comments that are immensely entertaining to read. Some national sites have informative posts and the comments are pure drivel.
Some folks loooove to pick fights and get nasty in comments. Some don't. Heated arguments, those that don't dip into childish name-calling, can be informative too. What I've found is that you can pretty much determine the standards of writing and commenting just by reading thru a few posts, without ever bothering to read Site Rules page.
So the idea there should be some "standard code of conduct' in place is just inane and also a sign that the person or persons who operate a site are pretty clueless. There have been comments I have deleted myself on these pages, usually when someone decides to get nasty and mean in attacks on other people who leave a comment. You wanna leave a comment that rips me, have at it. I do not worry about it, because I run this site. I have all the power to delete or not delete.
Sometimes folks have used coarse language in comments here which I don't use on this page. I may cringe a little, but I leave those comments in. Usually, they are funny, but if someone were to start hurling invectives at others for no reason -- well, like I said, I run the page and I make the rules. And just like in much of life, the rules are not written down. You cross a line and get smacked, well, you learn from it hopefully.
So if you feel the need to establish a 'code of conduct' for your web site, then do it. Rules on posting can vary from site to site, depending of the person or persons who run the site and that makes sense to me. But to expect others to do likewise is a fool's dream. People create groups of like-minded blogs all the time and there is no reason to demand all blogs fit into one category only.
It's like that old joke when the guy goes to his doctor and waves his arm up and down and says, "Hey doc it hurts when I do that." And the doc replies "Then don't do that." If you are contstanly shocked and dismayed by the comments you read regularly on some site, then maybe don't read them or (over)react to them. If you have something to say, say it. If you can't make a coherent comment, that's your tough luck.
Hamblen County Mayor David Purkey is presenting a resolution to the full commission this month to oppose this bill, and he joins a statewide rejection of the bill from cities and counties across the state.
The only group who claims this bill is worthwhile is the group which benefits from it - the phone company. This is no consumer-created call for change, and local residents and government do not want to give up their rights to control land usage, to negotiate with cable providers, to insure continual efforts to expand services in a community.
R. Neal at KnoxViews has been tracking the growing opposition to this bogus bill, showing it is a statewide effort to block the bill. But your voice is needed to end this bill now and forever. Send an email to your representatives. Tell them to vote no on HB1421/SB1933. The committee meetings are set for the 10th of April, so do it today.
A link to the Senate directory is here. A link to the House directory is here.
Sunday, April 08, 2007
While officials try to determine how, or if, the unopposed candidate can hold office, I wonder if anyone in the town really cares at all. Smart money says, not so much.
The Kansas City paper reports:
"I saw them down at the school” polling place, candidate Joe Selle said of Tuesday’s election, “but it never occurred to me that’s what they were there for."
Sweeping statements about what this event might mean will surely make the news.
Me? I'm rather impressed with the disinterest of the 197 registered voters who spoke by saying nothing.