Friday, January 23, 2015

Heading For Doomsday Say Clock-Keepers

Historians could likely determine when and where humans began to ponder on The End of The World As We Know It – when folks felt some inexorable urge to hang over the heads of humanity the demise of all existence. Today, perhaps, one could sit at a keyboard and monitor and search the Internet to explore that mystery.

Fortunately, or not, for the last 70 years, Western Civilization has had a metaphorical clock to measure the approach of extinction – the dire-named Doomsday Clock.  Thursday, clock-keepers alerted us that we are now at 11:57, three minutes til midnight, aka Doomsday. It’s a two-minute leap since the last move of the clock’s hands in 2012.

I’m not sure what purpose the metaphorical timepiece serves – to insure we all accept the inevitability of our collective demise despite our actions to prolong Life? Is it to signal us, like a football game’s 2-minute warning, that the Terminal Last Call approaches so that we can … what? Hunker down? Hug loved ones close? Launch some Kal-El into the vast depths of space?

Maybe it’s akin to that school teacher warning the class that everyone will get detention unless “you straighten up and fly right, Buster?”

It is discomfiting to realize humans may actually possess both the weapons and the will to demolish humanity.

Perhaps it’s akin to those dreamy notions of Nostalgia – everything was better in Times long past, only despair and death are ahead, and the Now is merely longing and regret and dread.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Cartoons of War and Murder

via cartoonist Rob Tornoe
How odd is it that we live in a time when terror threats against a low-brow fart-joke movie ("The Interview") and the massacre of cartoonists with Charlie Hebdo in France make worldwide headlines?

Kudos to Pith In The Wind for reprinting a selection of cover cartoons from Charlie Hebdo.

Here is a link to cartoonists responding to the massacre. 

The murders in France will in fact make sure more people will see the works of Charlie Hebdo so despised by delusional extremists. Perhaps that is a victory of sorts.

(NOTE: I;m aware of the irony of this post after my previous post)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Is America's Longest War Really Over?

A ceremony in a secret location (secret due to fears of attack) has been held to declare an end to America's longest war, in Afghanistan. Well, really it was a declaration from NATO. Over 10,000 American troops remain until the end of 2016.

Despite the cartoon above in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, this opera is sadly far from over. The "fat lady" isn't onstage yet, much less singing a finale.

"If only it were possible to end a war unilaterally. But it's not. As the military likes to say, the enemy gets a vote. And there is no sign that the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, Al Qaeda and other militant Islamist groups have any intention of ending their armed struggle to seize power in Kabul. Indeed, 2014 was the deadliest year of the war so far, with nearly 10,000 civilian casualties and some 5,000 deaths among the Afghan security forces — far more than the 2,224 Americans killed in Afghanistan in more than 13 years of combat since October 2001." (via)

Still, I'm all for NATO and the US getting out sooner rather than later. The future depends of so much on Afghanistan and what they want ... determining what they want and need is impossible to determine after their 3 decades of constant warfare. Perhaps reducing combat is truly the first step. But no fat ladies are singing a finale. 

Sadly, short-sighted and angry folks waging a political battle in Washington and in Kabul don't want this show to ever end.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Sony, Korea and Millions of Shoes

Movies can be dangerous things. Comedy and satire too mingle with danger, tyrants and dictators aren't powerful due to their great sense of wit.

Yesterday, fearful of a promise of violent attack on movie theaters showing "The Interview", Sony Pictures pulled the movie from release. The movie's comic misadventures in a silly CIA plot to assassinate an actual, living human dictator in North Korea catapulted it from obscurity to infamy and history in record time.

Immediately too, cries that removal of the movie from distribution was giving terrorists control followed Sony's decision.

Sadly, caving in to demands of supposed terrorists seems more a rule than an exception.

Millions upon millions of shoes being removed at airports seems proof of that. Nation after nation has embraced a grim surveillance society since 2001. Haven't we already caved?

As for the movie -- did North Korean hackers acting on behalf of the state attack Sony? Some say no way:

"It's not possible. It would have taken months, maybe even years, to exfiltrate something like 100 terabytes of data without anyone noticing. ... Look at the bandwidth going into North Korea. I mean, the pipelines, the pipes going in, handling data, they only have one major ISP across their entire nation. That kind of information flowing at one time would have shut down North Korean Internet completely."

"Monsegur thinks it's also possible this was an inside job, that an employee or consultant downloaded all the information from Sony's servers and then sold it to someone else."

The potential of lawsuits against distributors and theater owners seems large, given they had been "warned" ahead of time of an attack on theaters.

The screenwriter of "The Interview" is beyond amazed by all this.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Annual Christmas Monkey Caption Contest

We are just days away - so it is time.

Here are some captions to get you started ....

"Hang on, I'm taking a 'selfie'."

"Yeah, there's a reason me and Santa only visit you once a year."

"It's my special eggnog recipe, made with scotch and ice."

Tennessee's 1st Communist Town? Plz Don't Tweet or Repost!

Bad ideas - and perhaps a few good ones - thrive on the Internet.

Officials in the local government of South Pittsburg, TN are learning the hard way.

Earlier this month, for reasons as yet unknown, the town's elected folks voted to "ban" negative comments on social media about the town, applicable to  "all city elected representatives, appointed board members, employees, volunteers, vendors, contractors and anyone associated with the town in an official capacity who uses social networks."

Cue the avalanche of negative (if hilarious) comments.

"Guess we need to change the welcome say the first Communist town in the south," wrote one resident."

Fake social media accounts for Mayor Jane Dawkins (@NotJaneDawkins) have been created by one Reddit user, and another for Commissioner Jeff Powers. Hilarity and parody flow.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Cranky Defenders of Torture Rise Again

Anyone strapped down will say anything, absolutely anything to get the torture to stop. Torture. Does. Not. Work." (Source)

Really? We're back to the topic of a systematic torture of prisoners?

Dick Cheney, former VP and longtime cheerleader for tactics from "the dark side", as he called it, makes no room for doubt - "I'd do it again in a minute!" -- "It" being torture.

Going back to Nov. 2007, a previous post shows Americans decry torture but reserve the right to use it, and such a contradiction carries a heavy price for Democracy ....

"I am pretty sure if the technique, often lumped into the phrase "enhanced interrogation techniques" (a grisly tortured used of language), if such an act were used on you, you would consider it torture. It has been a part of military training for some time, as reported by Malcolm Nance, former Master Instructor and Chief of Training at the U.S. Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) school in San Diego. He writes extensively about the tactic in this essay, which makes compelling arguments on what it is - torture - and that torture is a useless way to get information, and that even watching such interrogations is beyond the ability of most people: 
"Most people can not stand to watch a high intensity kinetic interrogation. One has to overcome basic human decency to endure watching or causing the effects. The brutality would force you into a personal moral dilemma between humanity and hatred.
"It would leave you to question the meaning of what it is to be an American. We live at a time where Americans, completely uninformed by an incurious media and enthralled by vengeance-based fantasy television shows like “24”, are actually cheering and encouraging such torture as justifiable revenge for the September 11 attacks. Having been a rescuer in one of those incidents and personally affected by both attacks, I am bewildered at how casually we have thrown off the mantle of world-leader in justice and honor. Who we have become?"
The original post is here. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Oedipus Rex's Exes?

Early this Summer, I began a new job, as Artistic Director for the Morristown Theatre Guild. This is the 80th Season for the Guild, Tennessee's oldest community theatre, and I'm one of a very select few who have held the AD position.

The work has been quite constant and demanding of both my time and my creative efforts, thus the writing and posting here has been sporadic rather than daily. It is not my wish to allow this page to dwindle away to occasional mutterings - though in truth, my ponderings on aspects of live theatre and staging and plans and collaborations do often make me a distracted muttering fellow.

Currently, the Guild is presenting the second weekend of a comedy called "Rex;s Exes" in Morristown at Prater Hall in Rose Center, Nov. 21, 22 and 23.

And while this show may not be considered a classical work of theatre art (though if it was called "Oedipus Rex's Exes" maybe? ....)

The sheer farce and fun of the show is the reason it captivates actors and audiences - meaning, everyone laughs and laughs hard at the show. And that is a primary and vital value to the show - laughter is a powerful and healing force in the world.

"Rex's Exes" is the second in a series of comedies by Jones, Hope and Wooten, a trio who creates a massive collision of the slightly odd family named Verdeen with their own plans and desires - and still in this mix of mad comedy the writers gently poke fun a gender roles, marriage, life and death, politics, fame and the tedious challenge of getting older.

But mainly, fun is the goal here.

As the Guild makes plans for their 81st Season, I'm focusing our efforts on education programs, on celebrating the many people whose prodigious careers in theatre began on the Guild stage, and on the effort to renovate the Guild's playhouse on Hill Street, a building dating back to the late 1880s.

Theatre isn't simply a jazz-handing, song-and-dance spectacle of flying Spidermen or French peasants in revolt, it isn't simply the verbal pyrotechnics of Shakespeare, or the bare bones of tragedy splayed out for all to wallow in and despair. It is a true collaboration of word and sight and sound whose final sum is far more than any of it's parts. A good show is the result of hard work by many the audience may not even see - costumers and designers and volunteers. And the collaboration is not complete until the actors and audience meet in the ancient rite of communal experience.

So perhaps you'll tolerate my occasional absences here as I work on the tasks now before the Guild. And expect more posts about the work I'm undertaking, about the nature of art and theatre and more. I promise, it won't be dull.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Frightmare Manor Makes Top List of Scariest Haunted Houses in America

There's only a few days of scares left at Frightmare Manor - but you may want to double your efforts to attend as the ScreamPark has been ranked #6 in the nation for the must-see scariest haunted house attractions.

"This is an incredibly elite honor,” said Chris Wooden, of Frightmare Manor. “We work year-round to provide Fall entertainment that East Tennessee can be proud of. It’s very exciting to have people from around the United States now making Frightmare Manor, right here in
East Tennessee, a destination for their Haunted Experience!"

Boasting 5 terrifying attractions, Frightmare Manor is nationally recognized as THE Money Back Haunt, and has been repeatedly chosen as one of “America’s Best Haunted Attractions” by, and voted Tennessee’s “Must-See” Haunted House by

Frightmare Manor is located at 7588 W. Andrew Johnson Hwy (Hwy 11-E) in Talbott, between Jefferson City and Morristown and has ONLY THREE NIGHTS remaining in the 2014 season! They are open Thursday the 30th, Friday the 31st and Saturday, November 1st beginning at 7 pm each night.

For more information, visit their website

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Monday, October 27, 2014

The False Political Rants of East TN

Talking politics, this is what I hear it constantly here in East Tennessee - "throw all the bums out!" and "replace everyone in Congress!"

That's such a load, especially here in District 1 where only one party has held the seat in Congress since 1881 ... 133 years of single party rule. So those rants against Congress are deeply false, meaningless chatter instead of actual debate and thought. In fact, current Rep. Phil Roe, on his way to his fourth term, says he only wants to control the District for 12 years (6 terms). Looks like he will surely get his wish.

Fakery is key to politics, it seems. One of Rep. Roe's biggest PAC contributors is the "Healthcare Freedom Fund", which says it isn't authorized by any candidate, even though Rep. Roe's signature on the fund's website indicates heaps of approval and authorization.

As noted by R. Neal at Knoxviews, the current election is a strange creature indeed:

"Obama must be the most powerful president ever and is apparently a formidable opponent. Every Republican candidate in the U.S. is running against him and he isn't even on the ballot.

"Because of Obama's superpowers, this is the most expensive mid-term election in U.S. history. Spending is approaching $4 billion so far, including nearly $900 million in outside (PAC, 527) spending."

All this points not only to the hollow rhetoric of residents but also that the rock-solid gridlock in Congress is gaining strength.

.... next time, though, yeah, we're gonna throw them bums out!!