Monday, December 30, 2013

Your History Is Being Rewritten

A chaotic event or even a mundane event might be recorded, then rewritten, then disappear, be rediscovered and rewritten many times. The furious speed at which information goes through these changes is mind boggling. These days, history is not written by winners of conflicts, it is endlessly revised by whim.

Writer William Gibson spoke about this in an interview with the Paris Review:

"Of course, all fiction is speculative, and all history, too—endlessly subject to revision. Particularly given all of the emerging technology today, in a hundred years the long span of human history will look fabulously different from the version we have now. If things go on the way they’re going, and technology keeps emerging, we’ll eventually have a near-total sorting of humanity’s attic.

In my lifetime I’ve been able to watch completely different narratives of history emerge. The history now of what World War II was about and how it actually took place is radically different from the history I was taught in elementary school. If you read the Victorians writing about themselves, they’re describing something that never existed. The Victorians didn’t think of themselves as sexually repressed, and they didn’t think of themselves as racist. They didn’t think of themselves as colonialists. They thought of themselves as the crown of creation.

We’ve gotten so used to emergent technologies that we get anxious if we haven’t had one in a while."

Whether the event is the recent chaos in Benghazi or the hysteria over "Duck Dynasty", our society seeks out revision over resolution.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Little Tree - A Christmas Gift

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower

who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly

i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don't be afraid

look     the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,

put up your little arms
and i'll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won't be a single place dark or unhappy

then when you're quite dressed
you'll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they'll stare!
oh but you'll be very proud

and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
"Noel Noel" 
little tree
By e.e. cummings

Monday, December 23, 2013

News Photos of 2013

Boston's Big Picture website always boasts stunning photography, and their year end roundup of news photos from around the world is also an impressive collection. (Click to enlarge.)

Above, a shot from massive wildfires in Australia in January of this year. 

Here's an image from August in Egypt ad that nation struggles to reinvent itself.

There are three parts to this year's collection - Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Are There No Workhouses??

Last year Republican legislators in Tennessee wanted to tie benefits for food, clothing and shelter to a child's grades in school. Now there's another execrable idea targeting needy children again. At least this chucklehead is from Georgia.

He also opines kids lack work ethics at schools and they do nothing yet earn respect and benefits. He joins the Mythmakers who think schools are the hard scrabble exclusive proving grounds teaching that it's a dog-eat-dog world.

Go into any school and I'll promise you you'll find students working on many assigned jobs, from cleaning to oversight of classrooms, grounds, and more. All students are involved, regardless of their parents' income.

And yeah, you will change the world if you demonize hungry children. Just not for the better.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Court Porn and Prisons For Profit

The seemingly inexhaustible Organs for Outrage gobbles up one life after another, a ravenous appetite worthy of the monster of some ancient myth.

A recent feast arrives via the Texas court case of a 16 year old boy from a wealthy family who is guilty of killing 4 and paralyzingly another. The judge accepted the notion his fabulously well to do life excused him from jail time and instead ordered the boy spend time in a rehab center and stay on probation for 10 years. Cue the Outrage.

Does America have a slathering hunger for tales of crime and punishment? The huge numbers of "court/judge tv shows" or the insatiable court porn via shows like that of Nancy Grace point to a real hunger. 

However it could just be that so many Americans have experienced long and short encounters with the judicial system that the attraction is made more of shared experiences than gallows addiction.

I'm leaning towards that idea, given that jails today are the fertile lands of for profit companies which demand states sign decades-long contracts with guarantees that states keep the jails at 90% or higher occupancy rates.

While society benefits most from a prison/judicial system which re-educates and rehabilitates offenders, private corporations benefit most from endless inmates, harsher sentencing, and un-rehabilitated offenders. 

SEE ALSO: "A U.S. Justice Department report released on November 30 showed that a record 7 million people -- or one in every 32 American adults -- were behind bars, on probation or on parole at the end of last year. Of the total, 2.2 million were in prison or jail." (Via)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

China Lands On Moon, Deploys Rover

This morning China became the third nation (after the U.S. and USSR) to safely land a craft on the moon's surface, touching down in the Bay of Rainbows. has pics of the landing and details of the mission of the robotic rover to be deployed.

China's ambitious plans for robotic and human exploration of the lunar surface comes as the nation is also expanding their claims on air and land on Earth. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Annual Christmas Caption Contest

Once more, a holiday image I'm asking you to caption. 

Post yours in the comments and the best entry will receive a fantastic prize! What prize? Only those who enter the contest will know!

Here is a caption to get you started:

"Miley Twerkmas to all, and to all a good night!"

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Black Friday Crime Roundup

A handy glimpse at the national crime wave known as Black Friday 2013:

"On Black Friday, thousands of Walmart employees and union supporters staged protests to demand annual wages of at least $25,000 for the 825,000 workers who make less than that amount and supplement their incomes with an average of $1,000 annually in Medicaid and food stamps. “The protest is sad,” said a Southern California shopper, “because Walmart has good prices.” Police arrested a man dressed as Santa Claus outside an Ontario, California, Walmart; a shopper stabbed and pulled a gun on another shopper during a dispute over a parking space outside a Claypool Hill, Virginia, Walmart; police pepper-sprayed one shopper and ticketed another for spitting on a stranger’s child at a Garfield, New Jersey, Walmart; a police officer was hospitalized for injuries sustained while breaking up a fight outside a Rialto, California, Walmart; and a bomb threat led police to evacuate a White Plains, New York, Walmart. “Black Friday is the Super Bowl of retail,” said Walmart U.S. CEO Bill Simon. “We ran a play that only Walmart could deliver.” 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sen. Alexander Hates Your Stupid Talking

I'm not sure how it happened, but Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander really, really does not like to hear you talking on the phone:

"Stop and think about what we hear now in airport lobbies from those who wander around shouting personal details into a microphone: babbling about last night’s love life, bathroom plans, next week’s schedule, orders to an assistant, arguments with spouses. Imagine this noise while you travel, restrained by your seatbelt, unable to escape."

Friday, November 22, 2013

TN High School Coaches Gone Wild

High school football rivalry went weird this month in Marion County. Three coaches face criminal charges and the head coach has resigned after a bizarre prank was revealed.

Seems the assistant coaches wanted to motivate their team against rival South Pittsburgh by faking vandalism attacks. Too bad the coaches got their supplies at the local Walmart while wearing their school colors. After investigating, police also learned the coaches had broken into rival schools to steal playbooks.

Head coach McCurry says it all went wrong because of Love: "The last thing he told me was to tell the boys I love them," Marion County High School Principal Larry Ziegler said."

This wacky act is actually a sort of re-enactment of a Robin Williams movie, "The Best of Times". Williams' character tries to rouse his town by pretending to be a rival team vandalizing the school. His scheme failed too.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Bitcoin - Imaginary, Virtual, or The New Dollar?

I barely comprehend the nature of currency and money, but Bitcoin is a Thing, a new way to pay merchants and to garner investments. And now I'm attempting to learn about "cryptocurrency".

Bitcoin transactions are also being used by a proposed "assassination" agency.

As is so often the case, I have no understanding of what is happening except to observe that something is happening.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Art Prices Too High or Too Low?

Recent auctions for artworks have set record high prices, bringing out again a debate about the real value of Art.

Some $58 million for Jeff Koons' "Balloon Dog (Orange)" and over $142 million for Bacon's "Three Studies of Lucian Freud" are prompting talk of "obscene wealth" and "paintings my 5 year old could make".

As someone who works in the Arts in America, these prices are not the norm - most people balk at paying more than $200 for any painting, sculpture, photo, or even a story. Lots of Art experts emerge to opine on what is or isn't Art. But these debates seldom increase the value in our society of Art or artists.

"Some have tried to put things into perspective, lamenting that the Bacon price almost equaled the $154 million that President Obama requested for the National Endowment for the Arts for fiscal year 2013 — and more than the $138 million that the endowment actually received, with cuts.

Others have pointed out that the price would have paid, twice, for the renovated Queens Museum, which cost a modest $69 million. It has been noted once more that such figures make it impossible to see the art for the money, that works costing this much are, at least temporarily, damaged goods."

Monday, November 11, 2013

Why I Stopped Blogging

Note I said stopped not quit in my Google Trend grabbing headline. I've been absent here because all work for some weeks was directing the play "Red Velvet Cake War" for the Morristown Theatre Guild.

Above is a pic of a scene of the three heroines, Gaynelle, Peaches and Jimmie Wyvette, caught by the law after digging up and stealing a time capsule from the courthouse lawn ... for a cake recipe inside. The show is pretty much all like that - somewhat crazy but mighty funny. It's a family reunion crammed with sharp jokes written  by the trio of Jones, Hope and Wooten.

Directing and designing a show pulls me seat from writing daily here, the Art goes on the stage. Yes, otherwise the Art goes here, the Art of Blogging. More on that later - more pics from the play, which runs for only 3 more performances on Nov 15 and 16 at 8 pm and Nov 17 at 2 pm at Rose Center in Morristown. Tickets: 423-586-9260.

Peaches, Newt and Dr. Dowdall wrestle with love and destiny.

Gaynelle, wearing her "Gospel Beehive Wig Number 603", and Peaches don't really like Cousin Purvis's crushing affection.

The cast us truly stellar too, not just saying that because it's my show but because they make it their show, stuffed with hilarious fun. They are:
Cee Cee Windham .... Carli Rick
Gaynelle Verdeen Bodeen ... Sherri Jacobs
LaMerle Verdeen Minshew ... Sharon Seals
Aubrey Verdeen ... Darryl Frith
Jimmie Wyvette Verdeen ... Keela Phillips
Peaches Verdeen Belrose ... Kellie Ward
Bitsy Hargis ... Mitzi Akins
Newt Blaylock ... Alex Michael
Deputy Grover Lout ... Doyle Whitmill
Elsa Dowdall ... Lisa Frith
Mama Doll Hargis .... Sue Wisniewski
Purvis Verdeen ... Doyle Whitmill

Recent Carson-Newman grad Jessica Whitmill is the stage manager, also one of the best I've worked with. 

As for the Art of Blogging? It is a solo performance. The Art of the Stage is defined by collaboration, that seemingly elusive quality in the world today. 

One of the things the cast and I talked about was the powerful influence of creating spontaneous laughter for two hours - audiences will not leave the show with answers to life's Big Questions, but they will leave Happy. Another quality that can change the world. Theatre is an ancient Art, a fundamental layer of Community and Civilization, 

Come see the show - we've had folks from Virginia to Las Vegas attend and roar with laughter. Do yourself a great favor and laugh for a couple of hours.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Real Complete Truth About NSA Spying

Spying must always be denied - especially if one is not spying when it is often vital to claim instead you are spying.

And generally, whether spied upon or spying, both require the information gathered is limited and inaccurate. Operations which don't exist are perceived as ongoing and continuing. 

In short, spying and intelligence gathering is meant to fool you. 

So recent NSA spying news and narratives seems to be working hard to convince the world they can capture every email, phone call, internet history ... But that they are not. The Snowden Affair has a powerful impact since it could all be true, it could all be fake, it could be a sabotage ruse to insert a mole into China, Russia. etc 

We've all seen this movie and read this book of international espionage. Still though the tactics are familiar, we're now more into personal espionage. Individuals are missile targets now.

Nations - led by US policies - target individuals to battle, a world of arch villains, minions, and assets to pursue. All security is hackable. Social media brings cruelty and fakery, all kinds of folks play deception games, evidence of the casual approvals for spying and much more aggressive actions. James Bond is Everyman and we're at War.

I'm amused by the current TV show "Person of Interest" - where folks who have illegal access to a database of everyone's life and actions are using the info to protect those being observed and recorded. And there's the show "Blacklist" where a super genius villain helps the FBI fight crime and everyone in the cast may be a double or triple agent. We're all under surveillance and it's for our own good ... 

What intelligence agency would want to dispute having that reputation?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Rise of Animals In American Politics

In towns all across America, human politicians are being replaced by animals.

"In Rabbit Hash, Ky., a Border Collie named Lucy Lou defeated 10 dogs, a cat, a possum, a jackass and even one human to become the town's third animal mayor—all dogs—since 1998, says Bobbi Kayser, the current mayor's owner. The community of about 100 began electing animals as a way to raise money for upkeep of its historic buildings, charging a dollar a vote for as many votes as people wanted to make. About $22,000 was raised in the last election in 2008.

"It's like politics anywhere, but we're just more honest about it," says Ms. Kayser, 55."

The recent ridiculous shutdown effort took quite a toll, and the critters seized the day:

"The garden has been overtaken by squirrels, as well as the "newly arrived fox now making a home at the White House."

Monday, October 14, 2013

Palin Leads Republicans to Protest Their Own Support for Shutdown

The Bizarro World Republicans continue their assault on Amercan government, as noted at Knox Views and elsewhere.

Whatever goals these folks have remains elusive:

"Remember back when this government shutdown started and the Republicans had so many ambitions? They were going to defund ObamaCare, or at least delay the individual mandate for a year. They were going to introduce a “conscience clause” that would allow employers to deny their workers access to contraception. They were going to compel the administration to bypass the deliberative process at the State Department and preemptively license the Keystone XL pipeline. They were going to gut coal-ash regulations and expand offshore drilling. They were going to get fast track authority for tax reform legislation based on Rep. Paul Ryan’s principles. They were going to cripple the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and rip apart the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms. They’d means-test Medicare and finally get tort reform. They had these dreams and many more besides.
But where are we now?"
My own congressman, Phil Roe, head of the Tea Party Cacus, likewise continues to shoot out emails saying "I did not come to Washington to shut down the government ..." But that's what he has done.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

1st District Candidate Challenges Rep. Phil Roe and Miley Cyrus

Incumbent 1st District Congressman Phil Roe is being challenged for re-election by another Republican, Dan Hartley, who blasted Rep. Roe during his campaign announcement, saying Roe is part of the "immoral mess in Washington."

"So what do we do, Americans need health coverage, real health coverage, that they can afford? I believe a single payer system would work in this country, where as a Federal sales tax is added on to all purchases. This insures that everyone pays for the health care coverage including  those here illegally.  With this simple tax,  every single legal citizen would be covered.

No Premiums, no substandard care; no waiting in long lines to see your Doctor,;you get to choose who you see and you don't pay for prescriptions either.  Hospitals would have to compete for your business like any other business, an industry standard that has never been done."

Hartley also says something has to be done about Miley Curus too:

"Hollywood has been allowed to glamourize and promote dangerous decisions. Hartley maintains that lawmakers need to proceed with common sense to protect children from “too much, too soon” in the media. “The decision was made in the past to allow Hollywood to monitor itself, and now our children can see the vilest kind of pictures – even when just flipping through the channels,” Hartley said. “Parents say STOP, but lawmakers have been largely silent, choosing to look the other way. To those who say it isn’t that bad, as a father I say one name that makes my point: Miley Cyrus. The airways belong to the people,"

Friday, September 27, 2013

East TN Drive-In Goes Digital to Survive

The State Line Drive-In in Elizabethton is offering a free night tonight to celebrate the installation of a new $80,000 digital projection system, thanks to the many, many votes it received in a contest via Honda's Project Drive-In. For a moment it seemed all was lost.

I have mourned and still rue the loss of 35mm film projection as all theatre owners must either go digital or lose the ability to show new movies. Revival houses will, for now, still be able to run, but non-digital films will soon be available only from private archives. It's either digital or darkness.

I've had many fine hours at the Stateline - like that double bill one summer night for "Logan's Run" and "Demon Seed". I'm very happy this location will continue to run - most won't, like the Midtown Drive-In in Harriman.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Morristown Ranks As Least Expensive City In U.S.

The Wall Street Cheat Sheet gathered the info and reports that life here in little old Morristown, TN makes it one of the "8 Least Expensive Cities" in the nation.

I've lived here longer than I ever imagined or planned. It's in a pretty gorgeous spot of the Tennessee Valley, too. And though, again, not planned, my years as a semi-starving (but working) artist person have been allowed by the low cost of living (and wide-open opportunities in the arts).

I have learned too, though unmeasured by statistical metrics, the true treasure of living here has been the friends I've made. My thanks for them is likewise beyond measuring.

Check out the full list of cities here.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Rep. Roe's Weak Alternative to Health Care Reform

With enrollment options for the Affordable Care Act set to start in just days, Congressman Phil Roe is pushing a very weak alternative idea from Republicans which fails to offer much reform at all. Where has Rep. Roe been for the last 4 years? 

He's been actively blocking most any idea Tea Party Republicans tell him to block. Crafting legislation to assist East Tennessee is not his priority. This last-minute bill he's touting is far too little and so very, very late.

"No overall cost estimates for the bill were available.

Officials said the legislation contains no provision to assure insurance coverage for millions of lower-income Americans who are scheduled under current law to be enrolled in Medicaid, a state-federal health care program for the poor.

Nor are there replacements for several of the requirements the current law imposes on insurance companies, including one that requires them to retain children up to the age of 26 on their parents’ coverage plan and another barring lifetime limits on coverage."

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Frightmare Manor Opens Friday 13th

The daring folks at Frightmare Manor will be open for a very special Friday the 13th sneak preview of the Halloween Screampark which has become a twisted tradition of chills here in East Tennessee.

Creator Chris Wooden and his crew have spent the last year working on the 2013 season, and have brought together an army of ghostly and shadowy creatures to thrill those brave enough to visit Frightmare  Manor.

The nightmares start this Friday at 8 pm, and you can get discount tickets now via their website and keep up with all their tricks and treats at their Facebook page. 

And check back here on this blog as we are tracking down a rarely reported tale of the legend of Jeremiah Lexer, the notorious killer who once made the site if Frightmare Manor his home. Researching the arcane archives, I've found a story you won't believe!

Who knows where the ghouls of Frightmare Manor will pop up next!

Monday, September 09, 2013

ET Filmmaker Wraps "A Shrimp's Tale"

Thanks to some mutual friends - actor Michael Abbott Jr and producer/actor David Horton - I have been in contact with East TN filmmaker Andrew Robert Swisher, who spent the last few weeks making a short film in Knox and Anderson counties which he aims to take to festivals and hopefully will take him to bigger projects.

He's an Anderson Co. native, and he's in post production now, but he took some time to talk about "A Shrimp's Tale". Follow the movie on Facebook here.

How do you describe the project you're working on? What was the inspiration for it?

It’s a short film called “A Shrimp’s Tale.” It’s about this dying school janitor named Sebastian who forms this relationship with a young girl named Lilah because she stirs all of these forgotten feelings Sebastian had in a past relationship. In all honesty I don’t remember when the idea came to me. I think of tons of possible scenarios that might play out well in a movie, and I just kind of sit on them and develop them in my mind before I ever put them on paper. I started writing it last November (2012) and it poured out rather quickly. I did some major restructuring on the script in February until it felt like the movie I wanted it to be. The film definitely juggles a lot of themes. I wanted to make a movie that deals with relationship issues and death and spiritual and religious awareness, but in a very minimal way to avoid cliches like most movies run into. It ended up being very visual, floating in and out of dream sequences and flashbacks and also using very child-like objects and imagery throughout the movie to try and evoke the emotions I felt as I was writing it, rather than tell the audience how they should feel through dialogue or some formulated plot. There’s a lot going on, but I think we pulled it off. I wanted it to be something that people could relate to on several different levels and connect with it through personal experiences like Sebastian does. Hopefully each person will take something different away from it.

Tell me some about the production - who was involved?

When I finished the script, I reached out to a producer at a local production company called Jupiter Entertainment. Her name was Elizabeth and we just started getting stuff together. The biggest challenged I faced in pre-production was finding someone to play the lead. I had asked someone local early on to play Sebastian and he was attached for several months until he had to drop out due to a scheduling conflict with his band. There were a couple of others I offered, but they turned me down. I kind of started to freak out, honestly. I know most of the actors in the Knoxville area and it’s not that they weren’t good enough, they just weren’t right for the role. I have a very clear vision of my main characters so I wasn’t going to compromise. I was talking to one of my friends one day telling him I couldn’t find anyone, and he was trying to think of some lesser known indie movies with actors that would be good for the role. Jeff Nichols’ “Shotgun Stories” came up and he said, “There’s this one guy who plays the leader of the ‘other’ brothers. He’s good in it.” We didn’t know his name so we got on iMDB and looked at the cast list and found Michael Abbott, Jr. I saw he was from Morristown, which is close to Knoxville, so I thought he might be willing to help out someone local. I couldn’t find any contact information for him, but I found a website for a documentary he’s been making for a few years about the effects of nuclear power plants, and the website had a “contact us” link. I thought, “This is really shitty I’m about to try and contact him through his project’s website, but maybe he’ll see it by some chance.” I think it was later that night I got an email from him saying he was interested, but had a tight schedule. He had like one weekend free until late August. Miraculously enough, everything worked out. It was weird how it all fell into place, and he was perfect for the part. We shot it all in three days. Definitely not the easiest thing I’ve ever done. We worked pretty much non-stop. I might’ve slept 10 hours from Wednesday to Monday. When people see the finished project, they’re not going to believe we got all of that in three days. I even think some of the crew was surprised we got it all done and it looks as good as it does. They were the best, too. Best crew I could ask for. A guy I had worked with earlier that year named Andrew McGary shot it and three other guys from Jupiter just tackled the rest of the stuff. Everyone was so talented. There’s no way it would be the movie it is without them.

Once completed, what are your plans for sharing and/or distributing?

I plan on submitting it to some major festivals. Sundance, SXSW, LA, Nashville, Atlanta, Slamdance, etc. Hopefully we’ll luck out and get into one of them. I’m sure it will find its way to Vimeo or something around this time next year. Even if we don’t get into any big festivals, I’m just excited to see it get done and share it with everyone I can. I’m proud of the short its become, and you know there’s always stuff you would go back and do differently, but I’m convinced we did the best we possibly could with the time and resources we had.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Your Own FOMO Makes You Twerk

Such immense fun this week seeing "news" readers and parents and noobs saying "Twerk", it's sooo 2010.

Even the folks at the Oxford Dictionary have gone all "Ball of Fire", hustling slang onto their pages, apparently due to their own FOMO (fear of missing out).

Some Wordsmiths, including me, go squee when slang hits the masses. Here's my advice: Don't derp at the omnishambles. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Nearly Drowning in Outer Space

 Check out this harrowing account from astronaut Luca Parmitano about an unusual and nearly deadly accident - water filling up his space helmet while outside the International Space Station.
Read the entire account here, which details the event and reveals his steady and calm resolve to reach safety. An excerpt:

"The water has also almost completely covered the front of my visor, sticking to it and obscuring my vision. I realise that to get over one of the antennae on my route I will have to move my body into a vertical position, also in order for my safety cable to rewind normally. At that moment, as I turn ‘upside-down’, two things happen: the Sun sets, and my ability to see – already compromised by the water – completely vanishes, making my eyes useless; but worse than that, the water covers my nose – a really awful sensation that I make worse by my vain attempts to move the water by shaking my head. By now, the upper part of the helmet is full of water and I can’t even be sure that the next time I breathe I will fill my lungs with air and not liquid."

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

James Franco Takes on Cormac, Faulkner, and Art Itself

Cormac McCarthy's novels have found new life in movies, and his early novel "Child of God" is about to hit the festival circuit in the movie version written and directed by James Franco.

The book was my introduction to McCarthy, a spare and grim tale of Lester Ballard, a Sevier County man who slips away from civilization and into a cave, from outcast to killer. It's a powerful book, and truthfully for many years I've thought it would make a stunning movie.

And Franco's version emerges alongside his movie of Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying", an equally challenging Southern story of a family's attempt to transport the body of their mother to a distant cemetery.

Neither film is likely to hit box office gold. So what is Franco after?

In the past few days, Franco has used the Internet to promote a new TV series called "James Franco Presents", launching photos of himself as Mona Lisa and Van Gogh.

He writes of the series "... it's about Art. Duh".

He's also in production of a movie about the gnarly life of poet Charles Bukowski.

So, entertainment for English majors and Art majors? Perhaps. With fantasy, comic books and 3D franchises all the rage in Hollywood, he's carving out a unique path of literary oddities.

I say thank goodness someone is.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I Read Books

I read books. 

I mean the printed-on-paper kind, the original hand held technology. If you read them too, consider how you react when you see a person out in public with a book - do you try and see what it is? Do you assess who or what they might be based on the title, feel a kinship if it is a book you know and like? What if the person was reading from a wee plasticized screen?

Despite the worries and prophecies of some who claim print media is no more and that reading a book is akin to wheeling about town in a cabriolet or phaeton while perusing Sumerian cuneiform figures on a clay tablet, I read books.

(As a corollary, it seems worth noting that writing on a clay tablet preserves information for thousands of years while digitized discs and drives last perhaps 10 years.)

"The beloved shelf (or wall) of books is less well-thumbed and less respected than it was. We’re less likely to judge someone on their ownership and knowledge of books than at any time in the last five hundred years. And that shelf created juxtapositions and possibilities and prompted you when you needed prompting. Ten generations ago, only the rich and the learned owned books. Today, they're free at the local recycling table."

Countless times in years past I visited homes with rooms whose walls were lined with books, with chairs and lamps and the tsunami of comfort I felt was inescapable. The room was a way station in Time itself, where clocks did not matter, where histories were stored, where I could stay and learn as long as I wished. (Often such rooms were called a "study".)

A friend who teaches high school recently told of the frustration and confusion her students experienced as she required them to use a library's card catalog to seek information. (I should note too that another friend, a voracious reader of printed and digital books, who pointed me to Seth's comments, received a hard bound book from me of a novel which he is free to keep or share with others.)

I know that if, at the age of 12, I was given a marvel of technology like a hand held mobile Internet device, I would have glommed onto it with a fervor beyond description. Yet I also know that I experienced, concurrent with my infinite curiosity for information, a very physical searching was required to discover books and essays and information, a time-consuming task which contained lessons unwritten, valuable lessons.

I am certain that the ease of discovery and access to information is likely greater today than ever, which I find most encouraging. Still, as with most every experience, the more arduous the task, the more I glean from the experience.

That is a truth which cannot be imitated. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Happy Blog Birthday to Me

This month marks the start of Year Eight for this humble and lovable blog.

Blogs are not the hip thing they once were, and mine is wordy, sporadic, a jumbled landscape of politics, news, art, oddities, ruminations, activist and slacktivist, non-affiliated, witty and weird and yet - still pushing into the Web like an unfettered relative at a dubious family reunion.

You can explore the naive first week or so of this Cup of Joe here.

I invite you to continue to return in future too - there's no end in sight.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Wine-Dark Sea: Homer, Physics and Metaphor

Certainty, accuracy, nailing down meaning and fact - we might understand the concept of such an idea, but achieving such may well be an impossibility.

This train of thought was launched by an Internet discussion I found today via MetaFilter, as folks wondered just what the heck Homer meant by the phrase in The Iliad "wine-dark sea".

I confess that as a reader, the meaning of the phrase wasn't literal but figurative - the poet evoked a mood, a feeling with the phrase. Little did I know scholars debated the phrase, with questions like "were the Greeks color blind? The sea is blue not red!"

But debate rages. Can we distill fact from fiction? Is metaphor reality?

In truth, the story of The Iliad was shared by speech and by book and was translated from one language to another and no reporter/investigator contacted Homer to press the question: "What did you mean by that?"

So, debate remains - at least for some. For me, the phrase is more than enough. I have no doubts to its meaning, as I have no doubts about the phrase "rosy fingered dawn", also found in Homer's work. It is what it is.

Yet should you decide to question it too, then the notion of color itself becomes a puzzle and then becomes an immense maze. What is color? Is it light? What is light? Is it a wave? Is it a particle? Is it both?

No question that humans place vast meanings on color and light - Red state vs Blue state swamps American politics today. In certain parts of the world, a lack of color brings life and death struggle, such as the danger an Albino person finds in Tanzania, where such folks are murdered and dismembered as myths of the "magical" qualities of their skin hold great power.

Working in the Arts, as I do, I fully embrace the idea that colors evoke emotional responses, just as music does, just as shape and even time itself does.

Metaphors load meanings into almost all that we do - is there any way to turn metaphor into fact or vice versa? 

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Sequester Guts Judicial System

The forced cuts in federal spending means federal public defenders must cut staff by as much as 50%, but the law demands far more expensive private attorneys must be hired to replace them.

"While these cuts have strained the system, the anticipated cuts for next year will be much worse. Because nearly 90 percent of a Federal Defender office’s budget is dedicated to pay salaries and rent, no amount of cost shifting can avoid the layoffs required in the face of the impending shortfall. As a result, federal defenders will be forced to continue laying off between 30 percent and 50 percent of their staff and closing branch offices as early as next month.

" If federal public defenders are not available, courts must pay private lawyers who cost more to do the job."

More details on the judicial impact here.