Thursday, December 31, 2009

Live Webcast from Times Square

Ring in the new year of 2010 live with folks from Times Square and beyond for over 6 hours of live coverage right here starting at 5:45 PM. Merry New Year!!

Watch live streaming video from 2010 at livestream.com

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Watch The Official Times Square New Year's Eve Webcast On This Blog

I am most fortunate to meet and work with some exceptional people. As I told one of those talented friends just recently, "it certainly makes me look good that I know you, however, I'm afraid you might lose points for admitting to knowing me." In plain words: I'm very lucky to know them.

One such friend, Mike Abbott, whose year has taken him to a brand new project he is working with which is, I think, quite momentous. He's helping to produce the first official online interactive full six-hour-plus live Webcast of the New Year's Celebration at Times Square in New York City.
To see it all, viewers can go to TimesSquareNYC.org; Livestream.com/2010 or Facebook.com/TimesSquareNYC. IPhone users can visit their own special site.

Or you can just come here on New Year's Eve, as Cup of Joe Powell will host a live link to the Webcast, too.

Oh, and that giant ball of light they drop at midnight? It's all LED this year - welcome to the second decade of the 21st Century!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Things We Do Not Need In 2010

Each year culture in America spews out a wide range of meaningless words and certain types of fame and/or infamy, and trends that outlived their viability the moment they were created. So here are a few such things which to my thinking, we need to abandon for 2010.

- Don't ever use the phrase "Man Up". Ever. Just stop it. It is usually used in conjunction with ideas or "news" stories which just make no sense. If you say someone should "man up" about anything, it is a clear sign you are clueless in regards to the topic being discussed.

-- Prime-time cable network talk shows which pretend to be some kind of news show when it is not remotely news, it's mindless gossip, the kind which might be spoken by a dunce wasting time in the company break room. Likewise, the "trial" and/or "investigation" by public pundit whose only job is to be on camera as a featured former something-or-other is likely the very worst American trend of the decade. Same goes for reading someone's email or "twitter" utterance as viable commentary on any topic. It's pure proof that a cable network is refusing to pay anyone with ability to write a news report, and is far more willing to simply tell lurid lies.

-- Texting someone on a mobile device when you are talking face to face with another person. It's a pretentious habit.

-- Advertisements for "hover" chairs. Given the near 24 hour bombardment of this ad over the last decade, I'm pretty sure every single person on the planet who might actually have a need for a "hover" chair already has one.

-- There exists absolutely no reason to mention what Sarah Palin is doing. The woman has no skills, speaks very poorly, thinks even less so and has not been able to achieve any act of merit other than to be a mother -- and she does that poorly as well, being so narcissistic as to exploit her children as tools of self-promotion. See the above: a dunce gossiping mindlessly in the break room. If you are a fan of hers and think her a wise representative of American ideas, it at least tells the rest of us you really should have very few responsibilities in life. Being a fan of hers is reminiscent of those t-shirts popular in the 1970s that said "I'm With Stupid". (The same lack of worth Glenn Beck - the one way to tell if he is lying is if his lips are moving.)

-- Speaking of stupid, when someone claims that people who talk about Global Warming or Green Energy are really just evil conspirators trying to make tons of money, here's a reality check for you: all companies which currently sell energy (oil, coal, gas, etc) are doing it to make money. The real complaint is that such companies will quite naturally turn belly up and die off, like buggy whip manufacturers in the 1900s, as we develop more sustainable and less polluting forms of energy. Duh.

-- America needs to join with the rest of the world and ban advertising prescription medicine on television. No nation save America allows it.

-- And here are a couple of questions for the state of Tennessee -- why make it illegal to smoke inside a restaurant or bar but make it legal to carry in a loaded firearm? And why does every city and county governmental board have to conduct their business in public forums where images and records are made of their actions, but the state government is itself exempt from any such rule or accountability?

-- It's time to reverse the trend of charging the public huge fees and interest rates when they borrow money or use a credit card and pay only the tiniest of interest for saving money.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Annual Christmas Monkey Caption Contest

Submit a caption for this image in the comments. The Christmas Monkey is a standard Christmas guest here on this humble and lovable blog.

And Merry Christmas!!


Monday, December 21, 2009

Snowball Fight In D.C. Brings Angry Armed Police


A massive snowfall Washington DC brought out a few hundred residents to play in the snow and have a snowball fight -- prompted apparently by a widespread Twitter notice. All seemed to be going well - and much fun was had ....

Fun until a passing Hummer got pelted with a snowball and the driver, an off-duty police detective, got out of his car and began threatening the crowd with a gun.

Video of the event is here (via Gawker) including another video of the detective admitting he drew a gun on the unarmed crowd. Yeah, in the middle of a snowstorm, he gets angry for getting snow on his car?? And apparently he never identified himself as a police officer.

The crowd even helped one policeman helped get his car unstuck from the wintry mess. The Washington City Paper reports:

"
Like so many others, Robin Bell heard about the snowball fight at 14th and U Streets NW and decided to go and check it out. He tells City Desk that prior to the incident, a cop car got stuck in the road and everybody stopped the snowball fight and helped the cop get his car out of the snow. "The crowd cheered and everybody was happy," Bell says.

Soon, though, he started hearing people shouting: "Don't bring a gun to a snowball fight!"

"Then I walked over and I saw a police officer brandishing a weapon," Bell says referring to the uniform cop. He says he didn't see the detective brandish his weapon--only the furious aftermath. He says the detective was yelling and "kind of out of control." "It was really strange to see a police officer so upset and angry over what seemed at best a misunderstanding," Bell explains. "At worst, it was some kids throwing a snowball at him."


And according to this report on FOX News -- the snowballers were some deadly crowd of anti-war protesters who needed to be brought to Justice. War on Christmas is more than just a slogan for the hacks at FOX.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Camera Obscura: 'The Runaways'; Bad Girl Movies: Blondie's Christmas Carol

I woke up today planning to write about a movie now on DVD which is likely my favorite for the year ... only to have all train of thought hijacked effortlessly by the likes of Joan Jett and Cheri Currie. So I am chucking the original plan here today and going in a whole new direction thanks to the just released trailer for the movie "The Runaways", a bio-pic about the all-girl band from the 1970s headed by Jett and Curie which lands in theaters in March 2010.

First, the trailer:



With the legions of Twilight fans tracking every move of the series star Kirsten Stewart, who plays Joan Jett in the Runaways movie, it's deeply pleasing to know that a new generation is about to get hip to the band whose name, music and images made teenage boys like myself get a bit crazy back in the mid-1970s. (
holy moley is that really Dakota Fanning as Curie in that clip?? I thought she was like 12 or something ...)



Jett was 17, Curie was 16 when the band hit the record stores with their first album. Whenever a new Runaways album hit the stacks, all us boys would stare silently at the images wondering why the heck no girls in our school looked so cool or dared rock so hard. Sure, some girls had some of those clothes and mullet-like haircuts but there was nothing around our school to match those mythic girls who rocked the nation. They looked dangerous, like they could not get a good fake ID, but could buy liquor, had cartons of smokes, drove motorcycles, said curse words to any parent or adult, could break out windows with their music, might break out windows with their hands if they wanted, might slug you in the face just for standing near them.

Dangerous girls.

Jett produced this new movie, a project she has been shepherding for many years, going so far as to block a documentary, "Edgeplay", about the band from using any Runaways music and refusing to appear in the movie, though most of the rest of the band are there telling pretty terrible tales of how used and abused those young girls were. They were more often placed in dangerous worlds than they were dangerous themselves. Jett also spent some time with actress Stewart earlier this year, sharing some stories and such, and Stewart is doing her own singing in the movie (but I'm pretty sure that is not Fanning singing "Cherry Bomb" in the trailer ...)

Speaking of Cherry Bomb, here's the real band rocking that song, with Cherie on lead vocals and which Jett wrote:


There was another movie about the band, called "We're All Crazy Now" (or "Du-beat-e-o") which is a mangled slab of footage Jett was contractually forced to work on and deserves the utter absence of attention it has earned.

A fictional movie I have mentioned before is a decent riff on the band, starring Diane Lane and Laura Dern, called "Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains" which is pretty good really and worth checking out. Lane plays a Jett-like rocker who takes no crap, plots a meteoric rise to success and learns about the mean old music business and the dangers of fame. The trailer for the movie is here.

Cherie Currie did some acting stints in the 1990s on shows like Matlock and Murder She Wrote (!!!) but she took the romantic lead in a very underrated and odd low budget science fiction film from 1983 called "Wavelength", opposite Robert Carradine. The movie centers on the young couple who discover the secret government lab where aliens from another world are stored and help break them out. Tangerine Dream did the music for the movie, and you can check out some scenes from it right here.

If you need a few biographic details of Joan Jett's career, then you, dear reader, need to go back to the basics of rock and roll education. It's like this - the 51-year-old is an icon in music and pop culture and even has her own Barbie doll. 'Nuff said.

---

Speaking of bad girl movies, Turner Classic Movies will show a seldom-seen blaxplitation chick flick at 2 am tonite called "Darktown Strutters", a movie that nearly defies description -- but the TCM site tries:

"
... a cult film still looking for its audience. Combining elements of black action, soul and funk music, musical numbers, science fiction, slapstick comedy, and surprisingly blunt race-relations satire, this one-of-a-kind cinematic phantasmagoria offers a case study in how a screenwriter’s personality can fuse unexpectedly with that of the director. When prominent abortion clinic owner Cinderella (Frances Nealy) goes missing along with a string of other black community leaders, her singing daughter Syreena (Trina Parks) and her fellow female biker gang members tangle with the bumbling, racist police and equally inept Ku Klux Klan members before uncovering a nefarious plot by barbeque ribs magnate Commander Cross (Norman Bartold) to undermine the entire political organization of the black community."
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One more bad girl today, just in time for Christmas --- though she is really 65 years of age and is prepping a new album for 2010 - that's Debbie Harry, singer for Blondie. They have a new version of "We Three Kings" which makes me smile:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Congress Unanimous: Miles Davis Was Cool

Congress continues to strangle any meaningful health care reform package (and a potential funding loss for the U.S. military just in time for Christmas!!). There have been elements to the reform proposals I have not agreed with, but to do nothing, to scrap all plans for reform is a nasty rebuke to the average person and a big hug and sloppy wet kiss for insurance lobbyists and drug companies. "We love ya! Can I get me a campaign contribution honey???"

The majority of any debate on reform ideas was shot in the starting gate, thanks to the leadership of the Republican party (i.e. Rush Limbaugh) whose stated goal was to insure that all their efforts were aimed at one target: seeing the Obama administration fail, no matter the cost to the nation.

No lie has been left behind by the Republicans as they attempt to distort and destroy any proposal from the White House or from Democrats in Congress. It is a fact though, that much has been changed over the last 11 months since the oath of office was taken by President Obama.

Sadly, many in Congress are slaves to their own political party, and rather than act in the best interest of those who elect them they instead play a ill-conceived game of knocking down any effort to reform or improve policies if a Republican did not introduce the legislative orders. The Knoxville Sentinel reports that East Tennessee's representatives made sure to include millions in funding dollars in a massive spending bill which they then voted against. (Except our congressman here in the 1st District, Phil Roe, who sought no federal dollars for Tennessee and voted against funding anything. Not sure what the heck Dr. Roe/No is even doing in D.C.)

And yet ... in the middle of this mess, 409 members of Congress were all in agreement on one thing this week -- that the Miles Davis jazz album Kind of Blue was great, legendary, world-changing and full of coolness. And even though Miles' response to Congress might be the tune So What from that album, at least Congress has found one thing in America they agree on.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

One Home, Totally Wrapped in Christmas Paper

While the owner of a Chicago apartment was away for a week, a host of friends descended upon the home, wrapping pretty much everything in Christmas paper - including the commode and everything in the refrigerator too.

The result looks like this:

Ash Spill Disaster One Year Later

Almost one year after the catastrophic coal ash disaster in Roane County from a TVA power plant, the news continues to grow worse. The most glaring aspect is how the disaster could have been prevented if only warnings were accepted and acted upon, or if TVA's own plans to reduce the massive coal ash storage site had been followed.

At KnoxViews, some recent posts have been tracking the probe into the disaster:

-- A report on how TVA's policies and plans contributed to the disaster and that TVA's plants are among the most inefficient in the nation. (link)

-- The ash spill released more toxic pollution into the land air and water than was released by ALL the combined energy plants in the United States. (link)

RoaneViews has likewise been following the disaster and the aftermath very closely with in-depth coverage far more consistently than the mainstream media in the state.

And almost a year later, little has been done to change the way coal ash is stored and handled in the country, despite numerous hearings in Washington. Plans are proposed, ideas are offered, but action still awaits.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Camera Obscura: Best Food Shows On TV

I've been watching hours and hours of the Food Network, which has to be something only an American would do. We have such abundance and crave more than the old-fashioned 'some-dude-in-an-apron-makes-some-casserole' segments which used to air on local noon news programs. So there are a few shows on the network which both entertain and inform.

Alton Brown gets all into the chemistry and physics and history of food on his show, so watching "Good Eats" from time to time makes me feel like I am being educated more than entertained. It's the network's 3rd highest rated show and it's the only food program other than Julia Child's to receive a Peabody Award. And Good Eats is also marking it's 10th anniversary on the air. Go behind the scenes here. (Bonus: Alton was a music video cameraman in the early days, serving as director of photography on R.E.M.'s video for "The One I Love"!!!!)

"Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" features a squirrely looking guy named Guy. Guy Fieri, in fact, who was a sort of American-Idol-like winner, except the contest he won was the Next Food Network Star show. But what I like best about this show is that it features honest-to-pete local restaurants, usually family-owned and a place locals hold in high regard. Our nation is overgrown with chains of identical restaurants, which I find to be god-awful places to feed. And then there are the food troughs, aka buffet-style places, which make me run away in fear.



Here in Hamblen County, likely the one notable non-chain outfit is "Hillbilly Cabin", which is sort of okay in a way. It has pretty tame fare, though when Harrison Ford comes to town to visit his soon-to-be-in-laws, he always goes there for a meal.

There used to be a lot more individually owned and creative eateries than we have today, and I'd like to see more of them. And too often, Guy's show focuses on some 4 pound stack of goop getting served up and I don't eat 4 pounds of anything much at one time. Okay, maybe I could eat a pound or too of unagi sushi. Or a pizza, I could eat a whole pizza, as long as it is not 4 feet in circumference with 10 pounds of ingredients.

Cooking contest shows are getting common, on several networks, but none of them offer the simple challenge provided by "Chopped". The set-up is very simple and the contestants are either good chefs or they are "chopped" away pretty fast. The set-up: four chefs must make an appetizer featuring a few ingredients which they do not see until the clock starts, and then they have maybe 20 minutes to make and serve the dish - one contestant is then out. Then they go onto an entree section, same deal, making a dish using secret key ingredients, one contestant is dropped and finally a dessert course is required.

A well-stocked pantry is there, sure, but chefs must make use of whatever secret ingredients the show offers -- and these can be some insanely challenging ingredients: one appetizer challenge was to use bittersweet chocolate, mussels and figs; kiwi, wonton wrappers and gummi bears ... you get the idea.

It's sort of like the game I play here at the house - what can I make to eat out of these left-over barbecue beans, a can of condensed milk and some old black olives .... it ain't pretty. But then I am no chef. Here's a sample of the Chopped show:



Another food show I have seen recently is one on the Travel Channel called Man vs Food -- no I am not linking to it 'cause it is just wrong, wrong, wrong. Some dude travels about looking for a restaurant which serves gigantic sized portions of food and dude tries to devour it in record time. Why would someone purposely try and harm themselves with food (and not in a food fight, just through gluttony??) It's weird and unpleasant and kinda sad to watch someone be so debased for a 12 pound double-deep-fried cheeseburger. Would this show even be on anywhere except America?

If you run the phrase "food blogs" through the old Google Machine, you get around 349 million returns. That's more blogs than people in the U.S.

Google says in 2009, the fastest rising search in the food and drink category is for "acai berry". What is Acai Berry?? An Amazonian berry which is food for many in South America and popular in the U.S. because Oprah talked about it.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Theremin Christmas Music 2009

While it certainly appears too, too easy to find some politico in today's America to ridicule (see previous post) it is absolutely not easy to play Christmas music on a theremin.

And I cannot tell you exactly why I like Christmas music on a theremin. I just do.

Here are two examples, which seem both slightly creepy and utterly sincere all at the same time.



Tuesday, December 08, 2009

A Decade With A Heavy Toll

The names and faces of some folks with astonishing influence which tumble past this Decade In Memoriam piece made me pretty sad.

Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Kurt Vonnegut, Johnny Carson, Cap'n Kangaroo, Mr. Rogers, George Harrison, Gregory Peck, Paul Newman, Barry White, Ray Charles, Marlon Brando, James Brown, Richard Avedon, Bettie Page, Les Paul, Walter Cronkite, Mary Travers, Koko Taylor, Ted Williams, John Hughes, Wernher Von Braun, Andrew Wyeth, John Updike, John Lee Hooker, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Unitas, Anne Bancroft, Katherine Hepburn ......

Thousands at the World Trade Center and beyond on a terrible day ...

Over 1800 from Hurricane Katrina ...

Over 200,000 in a post-Christmas tsunami ...

Thousands killed and wounded in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ...

Plus some of my own friends and family ... hopefully very few of yours.

Mayor Russell Wiseman Is Sorry We Found Out How Idiotic He Is

Arlington, TN Mayor Russell Wiseman issued a non-apology apology for his idiotic and strange comments about President Obama on Monday, comments which nabbed national attention for Wiseman and for the town of Arlington. My original post on Mayor Wiseman's clueless rant is here.

The town, by the way, posted on their web site that Wiseman's views and comments do not reflect those of the town:

"
The views of Russell Wiseman, Mayor of the Town of Arlington, expressed on his Facebook account do not reflect an official position of the Town of Arlington.

"His comments were not made on a Town computer, or using Town computer services. The Town recognizes Barack Obama as the President of the United States, and in accordance with the Constitution, recognizes both the freedom of religion and the freedom of speech. We welcome all law abiding people to our town.

"We do not discriminate and we provide essential services to all Town of Arlington people without regard to their religion, race, color, age, gender, sex or national origin."


As for Wiseman's apology ... he says he only meant for his friends to hear his angry, hateful views about President Obama and is sorry that the rest of us found out. He says he was just joking, and his real friends understand the humor he used is not angry or hateful. He goes on to say he is the victim here, and that he is not going to talk any more about what he said.

His lame attempt at self-defense is identical to the argument put forth by Republican legislative staffer Sherri Goforth, who emailed some racist crap about President Obama this summer - that is, she was sorry the wrong people saw her email, it was only meant for friends. Friends who share Goforth and Wiseman's Fear of a non-white President.

Don't bother sending out emails to Wiseman - his mind is closed up tight. Below is Wiseman's non-apology:

"Regarding all of the reports about my recent Facebook remarks, I want to take this opportunity to say how much I regret that I offended anyone with my poor attempt at tongue-in-cheek humor amongst friends. While my comments were certainly blown way out of proportion, I do recognize that I allowed things to go too far."

As you might have guessed, I don’t really care for President Obama or his policies. That being said, I understand how my comments might have been interpreted by people who don’t know me and who have no reason to give me the benefit of the doubt. When defenders of President Obama started chiming in on the Facebook comment thread, I’m afraid I let my frustrations and my sarcastic and joking nature get the best of me, and so I egged and goaded them on within the confines of what I considered at the time to be a semi-private conversation among friends.

I trust that we have probably all experienced things getting out of hand from time to time, and I do regret it. I also take some measure of comfort in knowing that the people who know me best, and who know my background, my work in the community, and my heart — they understand that I am a progressive and tolerant person who believes wholeheartedly in the rights and equality of all people. I think my record and the way I live my life certainly reflects those views, and I hate that I may have caused anyone to question my commitment to it. I also regret any embarrassment that might have been unfairly visited on my friends, my family, my church, and the citizens and officials of the Town of Arlington.

One troubling and eye-opening aspect of this whole episode has been the literally hundreds and hundreds of fanatics who have directed some of the most vile and profane comments towards me and my family that I’ve ever heard, including making physical threats and even posting my home phone number and address online for the benefit of the fringe element.

In the interest of moving forward, I will not be giving interviews or fielding questions because I have no interest in taking any step that might perpetuate this whole episode or inadvertently be interpreted as an attempt to dignify my unfortunate comments. I have learned a valuable lesson, and I look forward to moving on and focusing on the business of the Town of Arlington in a manner befitting the good citizens I represent.”

Monday, December 07, 2009

Comcast Mergeapocalypse Now

Alarms and worries are rising over the proposed takeover of NBC Universal by cable giant Comcast, a deal which Comcast promises will be pro-consumer and which most industry insiders view as the beginning of a "mergeapocalypse".

From the Consumerist:

"
Blocked content, rising rates, forced bundling, and more. Despite claims from NBC and Comcast that this merger would be "pro consumer," the end result will be more restrictions on what content consumers can access and how they can view it. And it will inevitably be more expensive. Consumer and media rights groups are urging the FCC and/or Department of Justice to either block the merger outright or impose very strict conditions to prevent the problems listed above. To read more about the proposed rules, visit FreePress's release on the merger."

From Daily Finance:


"
If the proposed $30 billion deal between General Electric (GE) and Comcast (CMCSA) for NBC Universal is approved, Comcast would lead the market with control of access to 25% of U.S. households. Moreover, Comcast-NBC would own prized content, including The Tonight Show, The Biggest Loser and Bravo's Real Housewives series, according to The Washington Post.

In all, Comcast-NBC would control 20% of Americans' television viewing hours -- which might give it the market power to charge higher prices to competing networks seeking its content -- particularly online -- and to consumers."


No matter the promises, that's a massive amount of media control of everything from production to distribution which seems to run contrary to most anti-trust laws of the past. There is a vast chasm between the pace of the internet/media growth and our current laws and few in Washington seem to even see it.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

GOP: No Lie Is Too Big To Fail

"The combined crazy quotient was enough to nearly cause a rift in the space-time continuum."

It's easy to dip into a set of projected statistics in Washington DC and emerge with some kind of shocking OMG!! slab of information, coat it with tongues of lies and sell it as fact to some in America. Congressional members like Michelle Bachmann takes her lies to Pat Robertson and the 700 Club, while John Boehner repeats it. Their plan: repeat lies over and over until a section of people believe it to be true.

FOX News Channel ("we lie, you decide to like it") picks another liar to boost their oft-stated plan to insure failure at every level of government. No lie is too big to fail, they wail on a 24-7 time frame.

"
Former Bush Press Secretary Dana Perino played her usual role on Fox News yesterday, trashing economic recovery efforts. Most of her comments were easy to dismiss, but a couple of remarks stood out.

She noted, for example, that White House officials "try to claim that the stimulus bill worked and I just look at all the polling data and no one believes it." In other words, it doesn't matter what's true -- it matters whether people can be misled into believing things that aren't true. (That is, of course, why Fox News exists.)"


Tennessee's two senators, Alexander and Corker, meanwhile decide that finding a catch-phrase to spread like manure over the health reform bill debate, is a WIN!

As noted above, what is real matters much less than what is believed. Stoking fires of paranoid fear is job number one for the GOP.

For Alexander, Corker, Bachmann, Boehner, Robertson, Beck, Limbaugh and others leading the GOP the ends justify the means. They're playing a losing game and have decided that cheating to score a point or two is honorable.

Republican Orin Hatch took to the Senate floor to whine that if only the GOP could control the House, the Senate and the office of President, then by God, they could fix everything. Oh Senator - you did control all branches for many years and that led to 99% of the problems Americans face today. Lying about it might soothe some, but it's still a lie and a huge one.


"I dream some day of having the Republicans have 60 votes. I’ll tell you one thing, I think we would finally have the total responsibility to get this country under control and I believe we would. But we never come close to that. There are essentially no checks and balances found in Washington today just an arrogance of power with one party ramming through unpopular and devastating proposals on after the other."


Oh really??? The truth?? It's right in front of you Senator:



"
Republicans controlled for years — but their agenda of tax cuts for the super rich did little to “get this country under control,” so to speak. Throughout the Bush administration, “the median household income declined, poverty increased, childhood poverty increased even more, and the number of Americans without health insurance spiked.”

Republicans ignored the health care crisis. Throughout the years of Republican dominance, the rate of uninsurance grew and employer-sponsored insurance continued to erode. “When Clinton left office, the number of uninsured Americans stood at 38.4 million. By the time Bush left office that number had grown to just over 46.3 million, an increase of nearly 8 million or 20.6 per cent.” Between 2001 and 2005 — when Republicans had majorities in both chambers of Congress — the number of uninsured employees grew by 3.4 million and employer-sponsored health insurance premiums grew by no less than nine percent each year, while wages only grew between 2.2% and 4.0% each year. (In fact, the share of Americans who received health insurance through their employer declined every year of his presidency.)

Friday, December 04, 2009

Another Idiot Politician In Tennessee - Meet Mayor Russell Wiseman


I know every state in the nation has some lackluster, bone-dumb and ignorant clucks who somehow skeez the public into accepting the idea the person is some kind of politician, and soon become an elected official of varying offices whose skills are chiefly being perhaps able to walk and talk at the same time.

But our humble state has too many.

The latest chucklehead who crows of his witless behavior with righteous fervor is Mayor Russell Wiseman of Arlington, TN.

Mayor Wiseman decided to share his idiocy via the social network of Facebook because President Obama's speech on the war in Afghanistan interrupted the mayor's attempt to watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas". I suppose the mayor had not watched or read any news of the previous week announcing the speech was to take place. And apparently, Mayor Wiseman (oh what a nifty name!) thinks interruppting the 1965 Peanuts show is Blasphemy.

The Commercial-Appeal provides us with the mayor's own words:

"
Ok, so, this is total crap, we sit the kids down to watch 'The Charlie Brown Christmas Special' and our muslim president is there, what a load.....try to convince me that wasn't done on purpose. Ask the man if he believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and he will give you a 10 minute disertation (sic) about it....w...hen the answer should simply be 'yes'...." " ...you obama people need to move to a muslim country...oh wait, that's America....pitiful."

"At another point he said, "you know, our forefathers had it written in the original Constitution that ONLY property owners could vote, if that has stayed in there, things would be different........"

Of course Mayor-Not-Very-Wiseman quickly ducked away from being held to account for what he has said and published online -

"When contacted Thursday, Wiseman declined to comment about his Facebook posts.

"It's ridiculous for someone to send my Facebook post," Wiseman said. "You guys are trying to make a mountain out of a molehill."

Mountain from a molehill? Dude, you are an expert in that field.

Are you so un-American and un-Christian that you don't even own your own copy of "A Charlie Brown Christmas"

UPDATE: The Mayor's lame whinefest goes national.

UPDATE 2: Mayor Wiseman earns recognition on WikiPedia for Arlington, TN.

UPDATE 3: Join the Facebook group which says WIseman should respect President Obama and Charlie Brown. Or even better, email the mayor at russwise@aol.com.

UPDATE 4: Mayor Wiseman issues a non-apology apology.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Media Moguls Call Online Writers 'Parasites' and 'Vampires'

The FTC invited speakers to talk about journalism in the online age and got an earful. One of the speakers was Arianna Huffington, creator of the online Huffington Post, and she tore into old media kingpins like Rupert Murdoch and others who squall about the evil of online writing and information sharing.


"
Apparently, some in the old media have decided that it is, in fact, an either/or game and that the best way to save, if not journalism, at least themselves, is by pointing fingers and calling names. It's a tactic familiar to schoolyard inhabitants everywhere: when all else fails, reach for the nearest insult and throw it around indiscriminately.

So now sites that aggregate the news have become, in the words of Rupert Murdoch and his team, "parasites," "content kleptomaniacs," "vampires," "tech tapeworms in the intestines of the Internets," and, of course, thieves who "steal all our copyright."

It's the news industry equivalent of "your mama wears army boots!" Although, not quite as persuasive.

In most industries, if your customers were leaving in droves, you would try to figure out what to do to get them back. Not in the media. They'd rather accuse aggregators of stealing their content."

---

"Plus, let's be honest, many of those complaining the loudest are working both sides of the street. Take, for example, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Just look at the sites News Corp. owns, as TechDirt.com recently did, and you will see example after example after example of the pot calling the kettle black. And aggregating its content.

The Wall Street Journal has a tech section that's nothing more than a parasite -- uh, I mean, aggregator -- of outside content.

FoxNews.com has a Politics Buzztracker that bloodsucks -- uh, I mean aggregates and links to -- stories from a variety of different sources, including the NY Times, the Washington Post, MSNBC and others.

AllThingsD has a section called Voices that not only aggregates headlines, but also takes a nice chunk of text -- and puts the links out at the bottom of the story.

And Murdoch's News Corp. also owns IGN, which has a variety of web properties, including the Rotten Tomatoes movie review aggregation site -- which is entirely made up of movie reviews pulled together from other places. Did someone say "stealing"?

Talk about having your aggregation cake and bitching about others eating a slice too."


Read more of her thoughts here.

Also, a response to the "tech tapeworms" argument:

"
The top lawyer for the Associate Press, Srinandan Kasi, complained that less than half of people who read excerpts online actually click through to original article, which is at the heart of complaints that Google News, The Huffington Post, and others are the "tech tapeworms" mentioned above. But throughout the day, the "tapeworms" mounted a compelling counter-argument that they are partners rather than parasites, and pointed out just how much the mainstream media relied on their own work."

I've linked to the sites with the original content, so don't yell at me if you decide not to read them.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Way to Defeat Terrorism - Send In The Gossip Hounds

Pretty sickening the way the media has salivated all over Tiger Woods and an apparent affair he had. I've always noticed how the media sneered and despised at his image of success and work - pretty much biz as usual for Fame - they hoist you up so you make an easier target for taking down. Keeps the media machine rolling on and on.

But is there an upside to this most recent scandal-rama? I say yes, and it shows a clear way to finally bring down Osama bin Laden and the terrorists he supports: send in TMZ, Perez Hilton, US magazine, Gawker, the National Enquirer, the NY Post, Nancy Grace, Larry King, Fox News, The Today Show, Huffington Post, and bajillions more.

It's so obvious: the gossip hounds are a relentless bunch, they cover the entire world to nab a few seconds of video - send out those armies of paparazzi who can find anyone (especially the naked and the disguised). Tell them bin Laden has been seen in an SUV with Lindsay Lohan outside a night club in Pakistan and bam!! they'll have him in their sights.


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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Cormac's Knoxville Typewriter Being Auctioned


Christie's will auction an Olivetti Lettera 32 portable typewriter on Friday - the very typewriter which writer Cormac McCarthy bought in Knoxville at a pawn shop in the early 1960s, the one McCarthy has used ever since, pouring his thoughts and words through the device for the last 50 years.

He says in this NYTimes story, "No Country For Old Typewriters", that every book he's ever written was made with that Olivetti. From the early days of usage by writers through to today's digital writing programs, writers and those who observe them eyed the typewriter as a mystery:

"
He remembers one summer when some graduate students were visiting the Santa Fe Institute. 'I was in my office clacking away,' he said. 'One student peered in and said: ‘Excuse me. What is that?’ ”

Glenn Horowitz, a rare-book dealer who is handling the auction for Mr. McCarthy, said: “When I grasped that some of the most complex, almost otherworldly fiction of the postwar era was composed on such a simple, functional, frail-looking machine, it conferred a sort of talismanic quality to Cormac’s typewriter. It’s as if Mount Rushmore was carved with a Swiss Army knife.”

The Olivetti was held in high regard as an art form itself. The Museum of Modern Art focused on the Olivetti in an exhibit in 1952, while the French put together a touring art exhibit devoted to it in the late 1960s.

Is it the power of words or the skills of the writer which captures the imagination so?

A 2007 book, "The Iron Whim: A Fragmented History of Typewriting", author Darren Wershler-Henry writes how the device was used by the likes of Nietzsche and that Mark Twain was the first major writer to turn into publishers a typewritten manuscript. And he offers up some prose of his own to evoke the imagination:

"
The typewriter has become the symbol of a non-existent sepia-toned era when people typed passionately late into the night under the flickering light of a single naked bulb, sleeves rolled up, suspenders hanging down, lighting each new cigarette off the smouldering butt of the last, occasionally taking a pull from the bottle of bourbon in the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet."

Yeah, but those things were very loud, pounding out words meant making sounds like a World War 2 anti-aircraft gun. The sound was so well-known that it had it's own song, was used as percussion in Dolly Parton's "9 to 5" song, and once was the universal sound of a working newsroom or busy office, and even a comedy routine by Jerry Lewis.

Christie's says McCarthy's machine should bring about $15-20,000. Good money for any writer.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Happiness Without Twitter

I gave up the Twitter account I had started a few years back. If I am pondering on some words to stab into place on the Internet, the place for them is here, and I prefer a bit of narrative rather than 140 characters to convey a thought. For a few months this year I was reading the brief pronouncements offered on Twitter from the hundred or so folks I was linked to, but it was not rewarding reading. So I punted the whole thing and do not miss it at all.

Still, over this past year the constant posting of bits and pieces of thoughts and actions by all manner of folks surely gained much attention and was as trendy as the front row of a Milan fashion show. But a comment or thought which is referred to as a "tweet" cannot be taken seriously. I mean, once Wolf Blitzer started saying on live television that he had just "tweeted" something seemed as superfluous as a third nipple, as inane as a billboard encouraging "Learn to Read!"

However, there is a continual shifting and micro-brewing of word choice and meaning which is likely to continue for some time. I admit I sometimes compose emails to friends and write the letter "u" instead of writing "you" even though it chafes me a bit, makes me sound like a 12 year old girl who places smiley faces over the letter i when writing.

Word elimination and reduction is a dicey but persistent thing of late -- people are no longer referred to as "hungry" but as "food insecure" (are fat people "over confident"?), and I keep hearing references via medical and/or police accounts wherein the word "unresponsive" is used instead of what they really mean, which is "dead". I guess it's better than, say, "respiratorily disinclined" or "chronic languidness" or something.

Perhaps in the future, molecular nanobots can be employed to attach to your skin and release a stream of banal impulses. We'll call it Chigger.

Outrageous

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Religion In America 2009



NOTE: Cathy notes in the comments that Aunt B.'s post today on America and religion is decidedly more crazy-dangerous than weird.

Morristown Bankruptcy Looms Large

City officials have been trying hard to duck and cover from massive waste and abuse in taxing and spending and there seems to be no end in sight - taxpayers will likely be slammed again with ever higher taxes during a crushing recession and double-digit unemployment. Worse, elected officials flee from accountability - they've been lumping all blame on a parade of city administrators who serve a few years, set all fiscal policy, and when it becomes impossible to ignore the problems, they boot the administrator and seek a new one. Yet, there are zero changes in how city policies are created and implemented, once again protecting those elected to city council from blame.

Starting in 2007, the city raised property taxes by 40 cents, then cut them after voters were told if they okayed a sales tax increase, the property tax increase would be less. Backed into a corner, voters gave the city the okay to raise sales taxes to the highest limit possible. But the increase took place at the moment the economy fell hard.

Sewer and water rates are also on a multi-year phase of ever-rising increases as the city tries to repair and replace a system that has been overwhelmed for at least a decade or more. The city is currently facing massive fines from the Tennessee Dept. of Environment and Conservation, whose recent survey of the sewer system noted over 50 sewage overflows over the course of a single year and flow meters which were not working for that entire time. City officials said they had never heard of any problems at all until October of this year.

City employees got more bad news last night - there's an expected $900,000 shortfall already in the budget for '09-'10 which the city recently approved, so layoffs and cuts must take place. Bankruptcy is the word on most people's minds, but few are willing to say it.

Reports finally are hitting the Knoxville media - WBIR, WVLT and WATE news are on the story. As for local news reports ... there are too few until after problems reach the levels where hard decisions and votes are before elected officials and city residents. With council meetings held at 4 p.m. and not broadcast on local government channels, very few residents know what's been taking place -- or perhaps they simply assume all is well and seldom attend meetings.

Attorney, blogger and former County Commissioner Linda Noe has been trying to follow the financial mismanagement, such as a recent discovery of an illegal transfer of $2.5 million in city funds, for quite a while now -- she says of the most recent cuts:

"
To make up a projected budget shortfall of approximately $900,000, the cuts by various departments included a reducton in hours for many city employees, vacant positions left unfilled or changed to part-time, and the elimination of the positions of two newly-hired firefighters who had just recently been sent for training.

Voting "no" on the cuts were Gene Brooks and Claude Jinks. All others (Bob Garrett, Mayor Sami Barile, Claude Jinks, Doc Rooney, and Frank McGuffin) voted yes.

After the cutting was done, Interim Administrator Wampler asked that the council consider at a future date a number of ways of raising more money for the city. Among the proposals put on the table were raising the hotel-motel tax (which will have to be approved locally, sent to Nashville as part of a private act, and then passed again locally with a 2/3 majority), garbage pick-up charges, and eliminating recycling pick-up and having people deliver their recyclables to convenience centers instead."

She also notes the ongoing federal lawsuit against the city and Koch Foods in Greeneville, but again, local news coverage is virtually non-existent.

The city is also wrestling with a debt of over $70 million, yet eagerly announce a new airport terminal as the "Front Door to the City".

Indeed, job creation and city attract-ability are vital to the financial success of all concerned -- but it sure looks to me like the house and the roof are about to collapse too.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sarah Palin and The 'Twilight' Cult

I think there's a strong link between the popularity of the "Twilight" vampire novels and movies and Alaska's Sarah Palin.

I can't completely nail it down for you - it's this weird mixture of fantasy, immortality, sexuality, power and powerlessness. And heaps of plain old-fashioned shlock. It's about not just escaping reality but abandoning it, seeing it only as a hopeless realm and instead creating a fantasy of brilliant and daring success to call Home.

I've been trying to read the first "Twilight" book but it's slow going. Perhaps if I were 13 years old, it would seem to contain some kind of wisdom. But it just kind of bores me, seems kind of whiney, and why the heck would a 90 year old vampire want to hang out at high school? Don't get my wrong - I'll read all kinds of shlocky fiction - like the not-very-good-but-to-me-enjoyable series of Repairman Jack novels by F. Paul Wilson. I've read 5 or 6 of them and like them all, but I know it's like a bad bag full of drive-thru cheeseburgers.

A few things link Palin and the adventures of Bella -- like the way Palin keeps reacting to the childish antics of 19-year-old Levi Johnston, her grandbaby's daddy. And the way Palin writes about herself on Facebook. It's as if Palin sees Levi as one of the Bad Vampires rather than the Good Vampires Bella bonds with. And of course, there was the recent Oprah shows with "Twilight" creator Stephenie Meyer on Nov. 13th and Palin on the following show on Nov. 16th.

Here's a simple experiment - read an excerpt from Palin's book here and then read an excerpt from "Twilight" here. Reads like the same tortured adolescence to me.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Congress Dances To Billionaire Fiddlers

Congressional debate on most legislation is often mingled with information provided by lobbyists - hardly a news flash to folks who follow politics. Still, a few recent examples show the members of Congress from both parties make sure that the info they include in the record of their debate shine a bright light on a dark reality - they represent the will and demands of lobbyists and not of the residents of their districts.

Steve Benen at Washington Monthly points to a report that 42 members of Congress, 22 Republicans and 20 Democrats, made sure that words written by lobbyists for Genentech, a subsidiary of the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche, and given to congressmen which were then offered in the recent House "debate" on health care reforms.

"
Now, don't necessarily expect tomorrow's "Daily Show" to have a segment featuring dozens of lawmakers repeating the identical lobbyist-written words over and over again. That's not quite how this worked.

The Congressional Record includes the transcript of what lawmakers said on the House floor, but members are also able to submit written statements that "revise and extend" their remarks. It's here where lawmakers submitted Genentech's preferred statements for the record. As Karen Tumulty noted, it lets the "lobbyists' paymasters" know that "they are getting good return on their investment."

What's noteworthy here is that it's "unusual for so many revisions and extensions to match up word for word. It is even more unusual to find clear evidence that the statements originated with lobbyists."

Note to congressional offices: if you're going to copy and paste someone else's homework, make more of an effort to pretend otherwise.

Asked about the statements, a lobbyist close to Genentech told the NYT's Robert Pear, "This happens all the time."


In another post by Benen, he cites an email from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is funding a report aimed at derailing passage of the health reform legislation by claiming economic disaster if such legislation is passed - even though the CoC already has the conclusions of their "study" ready to go to members of the Senate.

"
... the Chamber's memo already points to the agreed-upon conclusion of the economic review that does not yet exist. From its email: "The economist will then circulate a sign-on letter to hundreds of other economists saying that the bill will kill jobs and hurt the economy. We will then be able to use this open letter to produce advertisements, and as a powerful lobbying and grass-roots document."

The Chamber's James Gelfand, who wrote the memo, said the proposal for the trumped-up economic study was "suggested by our Congressional allies." It was unclear as to who those "allies" are, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that congressional Republicans asked the Chamber of Commerce to help kill health care reform with this spurious study.

It's not exactly a plan that screams "credible, independent analysis."

If this seems vaguely familiar, it was only a month ago that a dubious study by America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) was released, in the hopes of derailing the health care reform effort. It wasn't long before it was exposed as something of a political sham.

White House Deputy Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said the email is "proof positive that the opponents of health reform will not let the facts get in the way of their efforts to defend to the status quo that has been so profitable for the insurance companies."



(According the always dubious "reporting" at FOX, the US Chamber boasts 3 million members -- but the truth FOX ignored was that really their membership is closer to 360,000. But once the falsehood gets played up by FOX, most faithful viewers get another bogus talking point that President Obama is one of them there evil Socialists. Given that the US Chamber is one of the largest lobbying groups in Washington, they hold a huge amount of authority - none of it based on the demands of the average voter in elections.)

And lobbying influence is growing and growing - Open Secrets website notes there are currently some 13,000-plus active lobbyists in Washington, which means your Congressman or Senator will be speaking to and communicating with hundreds if not thousands of them daily. I'd say about 1,000 voters would need to contact that elected official each day on any one issue to counter the influence of lobbyists. And not just email or call them, they'd need to actually speak face-to-face and that just isn't happening.

Open Secrets also notes that so far in 2009 over $2.5 billion has been spent on lobbying Congress - and that's separate dollars from those supplied by campaign contributions. Here's a graphic on the recent trends via Open Secrets:

Total Lobbying Spending

1998$1,441,256,939$1.44 Billion
1999$1,440,661,347$1.44 Billion
2000$1,559,161,579$1.56 Billion
2001$1,636,290,131$1.64 Billion
2002$1,816,911,583$1.82 Billion
2003$2,047,622,456$2.05 Billion
2004$2,177,044,520$2.18 Billion
2005$2,432,561,826$2.43 Billion
2006$2,616,906,950$2.62 Billion
2007$2,857,688,519$2.86 Billion
2008$3,299,526,502$3.30 Billion
2009$2,499,860,287$2.50 Billion

Number of Lobbyists*

1998$10,64110,641
1999$13,23313,233
2000$12,70212,702
2001$12,04612,046
2002$12,32412,324
2003$13,13413,134
2004$13,36413,364
2005$14,32914,329
2006$14,65914,659
2007$15,13115,131
2008$14,80814,808
2009$13,42813,428
*The number of unique, registered lobbyists who have actively lobbied.

It's worth noting the massive power that providing or withholding information on issues vital to the average person can have literal life and death consequences.

Just last week at RoaneViews, they pointed to an EPA report kept secret for 7 years on the health risks to people who live near coal ash storage sites, such as the one operated by TVA in Kingston which broke apart and spent billions of gallons of toxic waste into the landscape. The report included the estimation that those living near such sites have a 1 in 50 chance of developing cancer. But that kind of public information would be bad news for the coal-fired energy business, so it was kept quiet. Now that hearings and legislation are underway to create actual standards for how such dangerous sites are constructed and monitored, the information is provided to the public.

Thankfully, more and more accurate information is available online on how Congress works and who they are working for -- but it's a monumental task to counter the effects of billions of dollars and armies of lobbyists whose goals are not driven by how best to serve the public. Too often, the public is distracted by the dog and pony show known as The Media while the real work and the real influence lives large.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

When The Legend Becomes Fact, Print The Legend

A comedy show is often the thorn which punctures the party balloons which masquerade as "news". Jon Stewart this week popped the delusional -- scratch that - the lies - dumped onto the airwaves via Sean Hannity's show on FoxNews for faking it when describing the rally -- scratch that - the press conference - Republicans held to oppose a vote on reforming and re-writing laws about health care in America.

Hannity aired fake footage of that rally/press conference and Stewart called him on it. Hannity was forced to apologize to viewers - though he stopped short of vowing to ensure such fakes are to be absent from now on. (Maybe he was just distracted, all busy organizing his Conservative Dating Service, Hannidate.)

Writer and blogger pegged the real problem of such fakery:

"
Jon Stewart and his outstanding team of "Daily Show" producers and writers not only "get" the importance of media manipulation and propaganda, but they can take it a step farther because they also have something that most bloggers do not --resources. Their access to large film libraries is what helps them to take down Fox, CNBC, and all the other media types (and politicians, too) when they say the polar opposite of what they were saying a year ago or even a month ago.

You know who else has those kinds of resources? Mainstream, big media newsrooms. But big media pathologically refuses to think of itself as a part of the national narrative, even as the millions of people who watch Jon Stewart or read your top political blogs know better. And until we in the old media can comprehend that, the new media will continue to leave us in the dust. So will the "fake" media.


Rather than the oddity Hannity wanted to place this incident among, Fox producers have used crowds before to add outrage their "reporting", part of the same "rally" Fox promoted in praise of the power of Glenn Beck.

Distorting news is simply part of the news philosophy of FoxNews.

"
This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend. " (via)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

UT Football Salaries Vs. Academic Cuts

A report in the USA Today - which is often to newspapers what Highlights magazine is to homework - has a story tracking the ever expanding salaries for athletic programs at the expense of academics. One of the schools mentioned is the University of Tennessee --

"
USA TODAY's first comprehensive look at the salaries of assistant coaches finds many approaching and even exceeding presidents' compensation and most eclipsing that of full professors. At the top: The $1.2 million Tennessee is paying defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, an NFL veteran who returned to college football to work for his son, head coach Lane Kiffin.

---

"At least 66 football assistants, including more than two dozen in the Southeastern Conference, make $300,000 or more, and USA TODAY found that perks once reserved for head coaches are commonplace: multiyear and rollover deals, supplemental income from TV and radio, performance bonuses, retention bonuses, cars, complimentary tickets and country club memberships.

Tennessee's nine assistants earn an average of more than $369,000; Texas' better than $327,000."

---

"Of the 60-plus assistants USA TODAY found making $300,000 or more this season, 29 are in the SEC and 15 in the Big 12. Tennessee became a pacesetter, handing its head coaching job to Lane Kiffin, who in turn recruited a who's who staff of assistants and paid them accordingly.

"I really think you have to spend money to make money," the younger Kiffin says. "When you go out, get those coaches, that's going to translate into recruiting, winning, ticket sales, your team doing better, (and) I don't think you ever ask those questions again."

He cites Alabama's rise under Nick Saban, who is making $3.9 million this year. "When he was hired ... every article was, 'I can't believe how much we paid Nick Saban at Alabama,' " Kiffin says. "Well, guess what? Nobody writes about it anymore because they win. So when we start winning, nobody is going to write about how much we pay our assistant coaches because, in turn, we're going to make a lot more money by them being there. I don't think it's a big deal."

He smiles. "And I took a lot less so we'd have money for them."

Meanwhile, the cash-strapped UT system warily eyes the expiration of federal stimulus money and the prospect of trimming 500 jobs in two years, two-thirds of them on its Knoxville campus. Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, chairman of the system's board of trustees, expressed discomfort earlier this year, telling the Associated Press, "When your neighbor's enduring hard times is not the time to flash your Cadillac in the driveway."

The Volunteers athletics department is one of the few able to give its university a financial lift, contributing $10.35 million to the school and university system in September and pledging an additional $1 million a year for the next 15 years.

Still, budget figures show that while athletics salaries and benefits are expected to rise 12% this year, the money Tennessee will spend on academic salaries is projected to fall (from $127.68 million in 2008-09 to $127.18 million)."

See Also:
Michael Silence's take on winning and losing seasons at the Big Orange.