Saturday, December 31, 2005

Gemini and Accord - Loving Movement

A double shot of video is offered for you here on the last hours of 2005, both made (according to the makers) with zero computer effects and only human creativity. The pair offered are also advertisments and they are just plain fun to watch though I do have some thoughts about them both which I'll share first, then offer the links to the videos.

Both of these ads are celebrations of cars, those four-wheeled wonders of movement that have transformed the world and also serve as icons of individual personality. (Do you have a name for your vehicle?) The manufacturing and selling of cars and car parts and fuels and making roads and transportation routesand insuring them and taxing them consume billions of job hours and trillions of dollars, which all go to feed other jobs and services around this blue world. And as these videos show, we have a joy, an ecstacy for our transportation items. (How many car wash and wax locations are in a 3 mile radius of your home? I mean, c'mon they sell hamburgers by getting Paris Hilton to wash a car in a thong with a dripping sponge in one hand and meaty burger in the other.)

First video - which you can access here (via MetaFilter) is for the Isuzu Gemini, which I think ceased production in 1999. Drivers and cars hit the road like the dancing sprites in Disney's "Fantasia" celebrating the change of seasons in an orchestration of sheer joy, leaping through fountains and bouncing thru traffic. The video runs about 3 minutes or so and just keeps getting wilder and more inventive as it whirls its way past you - be sure to watch all of it. And remember, no computer effects.

Second video - which you can access here, is for the new Honda Accord. The video is a sort of reverse joy, a deconstructed celebration of every ball bearing, tire, wire, screw, bolt, and component of a car. The notes on the page indicate again how no computer effects were used, that it took over three months to shoot and took over 600 takes get the video you see. It's a pure Rube Goldberg machine - and aren't such deconstructions brilliant ways to show how we can complicated the simple to astonishing heights of unecessary but entertaining ways?

Some final thoughts - I still want my own personal rocket car or better, a teleporation device. I also wonder what it will take or how long before we move past the internal combustion engine as our cultural definer.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Camera Obscura - Final Friday

Here at the final Friday of 2005, we return to the topic that has had me writing non-stop for over 27 years now - movies. What they are, what they mean, what's new and what's old. Also too, since I was asked by someone, a definition and/or explanation of why I call my posts about movies Camera Obscura.

There is a pretty long history of the use of a Camera Obscura, which you can read here, starting with a reference to a Camera Obscura from the Chinese philosopher Mo-Ti in the 5th century. And there is a simple law of optics involved with this concept - rays of light pass through a small opening, with or without a lens, and an upside-down image of what's outside will appear on a surface opposite the opening. For many years, it was a tool for artists and astronomers, a way for them to trace a drawing of an image or a planet. It is part of the art world today, and likely will always be. Given the nature of human perception, it seemed to me a fine way to describe the act of viewing a movie (another optical trick) and the act of writing about what I see.

Literally, the phrase is Latin, and means Dark Chamber - and as Merriam's Dictionary defines it:
a darkened enclosure having an aperture usually provided with a lens through which light from external objects enters to form an image of the objects on the opposite surface."

When I wrote my first movie column in the mid-1980s under the banner Camera Obscura, I had no idea there were already numerous film journals and columns that used the same title and when I found out there were, I still used it for a simple reason - I like the word and the image the concept made in the dark chambers of my own mind, a reflection of what I see.

Audiences in a movie theatre all participate in these flickering moments, as they have for years, but each person still leaves the event with deeply personal memories which makes for both shared and private encounters. Thanks to rapidly changing technologies, I can watch them endlessly now in my own home whether on dozens of movie channels or on stacks of DVDs or VHS tapes. From the first movies made up to illegal bootlegs of movies not yet released, it's all at my fingertips.

But that isn't the same as being in a theatre - which were once palaces then became dull shoe-box shaped mall multiplexes and now are events with stadium seating in rocking chairs which may include digital sound named after a 70s sci-fi movie, THX-1138. And even though the Drive-In is disappearing, there was nothing like watching a movie outside as you sat in your car on in a lawn chair. I can usually recall the theatre and perhaps the cities where I've seen most movies, a memory that is far different from viewing a film for the first time on television.

When it was cheaper to see them, I went more often, and when I was paid to see them and review them I went even more. The sound of a projector is music, a sprocket hole is a doorway to infinity and illusion.

I am constantly amazed by old favorites and new discoveries. This week again watched two truly American classics, the first was "Two Lane Blacktop" from director Monte Hellman. James Taylor (yes, the singer) and Mike Wilson (once a Beach Boy) drive endlessly in a grey primered '55 Chevy and don't talk much. Warren Oates drives a GTO and wants to race and spins endless versions of his life story to anyone who will listen. The movie is so empty and silent in places, or sometimes is overwhelmed by roaring engine, and it also does something I like in many movies - it captures a specific time and place in history. Here, its the post-60s and early 70s mundane and morose qualities of America. Hellman's style and editing may bore most viewers but if you let the movie just run it's course, it leaves an emotional wallop.

Another oldie this week was "The Hustler" by Robert Rossen and starring Paul Newman as Fast Eddie Felsen who lives and dies in pool halls. A sequel, "The Color Of Money" is also fine, but this original story is like bebop jazz and whiskey soda - cool and biting. Here too, are little moments of time, 1960 America. The lunch counter at the bus station is a real place, and the spare but loaded pick-up dialog between Newman and Laurie Piper is as real as the forlorn bus stop.

Not everyone wants some Big Idea when they watch a movie - they just want to be entertained for a while, to laugh or to be thrilled. But even then, what we watch and how we react, its all part of the same process of perception and participation.

OK, enough of what was - what's ahead for 2006?

A vast amount of movie trailers for upcoming releases can be found here, and that's a good place to start pondering the next year of movies and good place for me to stop today. I will add however that one of the behind the scenes details on the site mentioned above is the production of Frank Miller's "300", based on his graphic novel about Spartan warriors. It nicely blends the artwork of Miller, history and the new ways technology is making movie magic.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Simplicity Defined

You have to admire a simple and great idea like this one - making nearly one million dollars with the Internet in four months. 21-year-old Alex Tew created, offering anyone who wanted a chance to buy one or a dozen or however many pixels for only one dollar per pixel.

In four months, he's sold over 900,000.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A True Story

Please welcome another newish blogger, LA Barabbas. I love the title, and he has a true story to tell about his recent journey to Morristown for the holidays.

I think it's a good story, but also I think it shows how any person who arrives in what remains of the downtown area is going to be confused. Is it a business that's open? Is it a building that's collapsing? Why are there overhead sidewalks that lead nowhere? Why does the city do it's best to bulldoze and take over and zero to build up the existing businesses? Why do some places get the red carpet treatment from the city (like a spankin' new bank) and legendary and solid businesses (like Ramsey's Farm Market) which are a part of the city's history, get the short end of the every stick?

It happens, I know, in most any town - certain developers who are friends with the right planning commissioners or city appointees - get the best efforts. The rest can all go to hell. The history of the downtown is even more amazing when you consider how the former city hall (now a parking lot) used to overlook one of the most notorious centers of crime that operated blatantly in plain sight of everyone.

Whoops - this was supposed to be about LA Barabbas. Sorry. He's a fine writer and knows some of the most famous .... well, best not to say who he knows. He will reveal all. Go. Read.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

TN Home to 3 of Top 25 Webcams of 2005

Little eyes are everywhere, capturing moments of the lack of moving traffic on the Endless Construction that is Knoxville to flipping light switches on and off in some guy's basement in Oklahoma to cell phone porn shots from the mall.

But this post is about achievement and status of the Widely Webbed World cam kind.

According to EarthCam's Best of 2005, Tennessee has not one, not two but three of the top 25. In Tennessee math, that's what, like 30 percent? (Yes, Virginia, that was a joke.) Just scroll thru their list for access to all the TN webcams honored this year.

Now one of them was surely no surprise - the GracelandCam. You get two cams really, one of the entrance, which has some li'l gold Christmas trees visible and another of a black and white cam that looks like either some kind of Nativity scene or a forgotten scene from the French New Wave, maybe Jean Luc Godard or an early Truffaut effort.

Now, of course you could just take a peek at the Eiffel Tower cam, or use the robotic cam you can control to look around Tokyo - or even the Dept. of Motor Vehicles cam in Alaska. But then you'd miss the other two Tennessee web cams on the top 25 list.

One is a "live" feed of Piranhas from somewhere in Nashville, but I could really not make much sense of that one. It has a zippy opening credits sequence and then a web page opens for a company that makes advertisements called Piranha Pictures (they claim they made a spot for TDOT and the TN Dept. of Tourism and others) But when I click on the "watch Piranhas Live cam" I get nothing. Still, they seem to be sincerely spending tax dollars and other investment funds on .... something.

Best of the bunch, hands down, however is called JailCam. Yes, live action from Clinton, TN and the Anderson County Sheriff's Department. It even has a warning that you may witness "instances of violence or inappropriate behavior by detainees ..." Now, we're talking worldwide entertainment value!!

So a salute from yer Cup of Joe goes to Graceland, the alleged Piranhas, and the Anderson County Jail, which ranks right up there with cams of the Pyramids and Arctic Exploration Vessels and even a Panda Cam. Start the new year with your plan to make Tennessee the Webcam Capital!! (Think DollyCam or MoonshineCam or DisgruntledVolCam ....well, you get the idea.)

ET Jobless Rates Continue Climb

It isn't the news you hope to hear as 2005 winds down, but the Greeneville Sun breaks down the state jobless figures and the news isn't very good. The national rate is on the rise too, from a low of 4.6 percent to 4,8 percent, but that is far and away better than conditions in East Tennessee.

For example, the Hamblen County rate is up to 6.3 percent while the city of Morristown's unemployment rate is at 9.1 percent.

As the Sun reports:

• Cocke County, 7.4 percent, up from 7.1 percent in October;

• Hamblen County, 6.3 percent, up from 6.2 percent in October;

• Hawkins County, 6.0 percent, up from 5.2 percent in October.

• Sullivan County, 4.7 percent, up from 4.5 percent in October;

• Unicoi County, 6.2 percent, up from 5.6 percent in October;

• Washington County, 4.7 percent, up from 4.6 percent in October.

Nearby, Smaller Cities

Among nearby, smaller Tennessee cities, the following were their unemployment rates in November:

• Bristol, 5.1 percent, up from 4.9 percent in October;

• Johnson City, 5.2 percent, up from 4.9 percent in October;

• Kingsport, 7.2 percent, up from 6.9 percent in October; and

• Morristown, 9.1 percent, up from 9.0 percent in October.

Among Tennessee’s major metropolitan areas, these were their November jobless rates:

• Knox County (Knoxville), 4.4 percent, up from 4.1 percent in October;

• Hamilton County (Chattanooga), 4.8 percent, up from 4.7 percent in October;

• Davidson County (Nashville), 4.9 percent, up from 4.7 percent in October; and

• Shelby County (Memphis), 6.3 percent, up from 6.0 percent in October.

Monday, December 26, 2005

New Numbers Thanks To Technorati

Back on Oct 23 of this year I found a wee site that "calculated" the value of this or any blog based on a critieria I have no capacity to understand.

I checked today and found the value has more than doubled since then! By Odin's Beard!!! In a few huundred years, I may somehow figure out how to turn the words into income! Thanks and more thanks to all of you for ... well, making this all that much more worthwhile!!

And li'l Tiny Tim may lose his crutches and be ok after all!

My blog is worth $15,242.58.
How much is your blog worth?

Kelvis Has Entered the Building

Please add one more must read to the world o' bloggers, known as Kelvis. Her blog is titled Valley Grrrl. Go, read, enjoy and add comments. You'll feel better jes' fer doing it.

This is not a suggesstion, It is a blatant plug.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Two Christmas Stories

Of all the various presentations of the Christmas story, in movies and books, and elsewhere, I always thought the version as presented by Linus in the Charlie Brown Christmas Special as about the best.

Still, I searched for a story or two to share here today.

Then, reading through some of the links included here on this page, I read a two-part Christmas story at, of all places, The Stinkhorn Rodeo. So please take a read at Johnny Rawhide's "Makiin' Christmas At The Ranch" Parts One and Two.

And much Joy and Peace to all.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Camera Obscura - Write The Caption Contest

Here's a few things for you on this non-normal Friday movie post.

First -- feel free to make up your own caption for the following photograph. And no, it is not from the movie "King Kong". (And thanks too go to the Rodeo Monkey for showing me the national value of monkeys in general.)

Also, I have to hand out just a few lumps of coal for some folks who have made this Christmas season a time of greed, hatred and lies.

First Fox News in general and also Fox host John Gibson, who used falsehoods and fear about the holiday to increase his book sales with a dubious example of writing (and also it gave him airtime to screechingly whine in a feeble attempt to "prove" his ridiculous viewpoint and more importantly to sell a few hundred thousand copies of his Book of Lies, called "The War On Christmas: How The Liberal Plot to Ban Christmas Is Worse Than You Thought."

Another title could be "Please Buy My Book Or I'll Shoot This Dog" (apologies to the National Lampoon for use of their headline.) What a twisted excuse for journalism.

So, just for fun, make up any caption you wish for the photo here and add it in the comment section.

And you can also find a whole heap of great monkey stories over the last few weeks at Rex L. Camino's Blog of Doom. That story about Paris Hilton's pet monkey attacking her is my favorite story of the year. (See "Paris Monkey Attacks" Nov. 16th post for the first of many stories.)

Oh and one more question you may or may not want to answer - Why do I title my Friday posts "Camera Obscura"? My answer will appear next week.

Feliz Navidad, Merry Ho-Ho, Happy Holidays and don't monkey with my Christmas again.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

10,000 Plus for Christmas

I just wanted to say a giant-sized thank you to all the many readers and bloggers and subscribers and the curious who have been making this page a stopping-off point. Sometime on Wednesday, the statistic counter on this page noted I had passed 10,000 page views. I know some sites get many many more, but I still say THANKS!!!

I have just started to dip into this new form of media and communication since August 2005, and to have so many readers in such a short time, I feel I have offered enough of worth and note here to encourage you to return and others to seek this page out. Many fine writers - see all those links over on the left - have added greatly to the number of visitors here and I thank them with all my heart. And I hope you visit them as well, since they have given me many hours of excellent reading and information.

I know I am hardly a constant source of news, but the opportunity to write and share that writing with any and everyone who has some kind of computer access means more than I can express. It is truly liberating to bypass all the typical boundaries of publishing and find there are readers who care to spend time here. While the banks and stores I try and do business with never ask if I want to trade some blog time for their services, the worth of this project is priceless to me.

All in all, it makes me want to work a little harder to provide information and stories and oddities i encounter as I shuffle my way forward. There have been so many excellent rewards in terms of friendship alone, I can only consider myself a wealthy and fortunate man indeed.

So Merry Christmas to all of you and thanks for a gift I will diligently return with as much good writing as possible.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Dancing In The Streets

You've likely heard it before here in the South -- Dancing leads to corruption, sin, decadence, sex and maybe even tobacco. Thanks to a short but deeply enjoyable visit with my mother and two of her sisters yesterday, I remembered my first attempt into getting busy on the dance floor when I was still a wee lad. It was thanks to another set of sisters, Edna and Rita, my aunt's kids, that I hit the floor to twist the night away waaaaaaay back when in - well, I think it was 1965.

As memorable as the image of dancing may be, the music that was played is just as vivid and it marked my first encounter with the soulful R&B sounds of Motown. (Be sure to check out the video at the bottom of this post, in all it's black and white glory.)

Here's the scene - a high school room, in the late spring I think, in Crossville. I have no idea how I ended up in the charge of my cousins that day, but there I was. It was getting close to the end of the day and some agreement had been made by teachers and students that music and dancing would be allowed for a short time. I imagine today the teacher would be fired and the students the victims of national media scrutiny for such hedonistic, extra curricular actions.

The students were allowed to bring in their 45s (no, not guns), though my aunt wondered if each kid brought in 45 recordings each to be played -- no, these were tiny vinyl discs played at 45rpm on a belt-driven turntable fitted with these stubby metal adapters and the sound came out of a single mono speaker. Sounds ancient today - it was back when rock and roll was in its infancy, though in a skyrocketing move to the top of the pop culture, when singles were still a mostly new way for records to be sold. You didn't download it - you bought these li'l discs in paper sleeves in grocery stores and drug stores since record stores were something only major metropolitan cities possessed.

So, there I was, a newbie to the dance and rock world, watching as these older kids (who all seemed like adults to my five-year old mind) hurled their desks and chairs to the sides of the room. The record player was plugged in to the wall outlet, the stack of 45s jammed onto the spindle of the player, and shoes went flying - it was easier to find a groove and move just wearing socks. Seems there was even a kind of Soul Train solo dance show, as kids lined up on either side of the room and we all took turns showing off our painfully white-people dance moves.

A lifetime of technology has been developed and taken hold since then. Today, music is downloaded onto your portable phone, and many high school or younger kids can videotape themselves with that same phone, dancing or singing along to the music and then post those videos in dozens of places on a Webly Wired World. Saw one the other day of some kid dancing along to a revamped hip hop mix of the old 60s tune "If You're Going To San Francisco" -- a weird mix to be sure. And there they are, performing solo like a superstar for all the world to watch.

And Crossville is mighty different too - home to Espresso Bars and Chinese diners. I recall when the big event was to hit the A&W Drive-In and get root beer. Dear God, I'm old.

But it is the music of that day I remember most - the Supremes, the Four Tops, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, the Miracles. How could anyone stay still hearing those hits? Simple lyrics, yes, mostly about love or the loss of it and some more songs just about dancing itself. Looking back at what the Top 40 hits were that year, the tunes ranged from Buck Owen's "Tiger By The Tail" to Edwin Starr's "Agent Double-O Soul" to the Beatles, the Stones, Otis Redding, The Beach Boys, Sam Cooke and on and on.

Thankfully, even then, most dance steps were all improvised by everyone. So anyone could dance and we sure did. Joyous and unself-conscious, loose and free, I had no idea we were part of a cultural jump that was on the verge of changing the world. For us, it was just good music and laughter and fun and gave even the wee east Tennessee folks like myself a chance to get funky and find soul. We helped make cool a way of life.

That said, here's a sample of the music and the performances, this one from The Temptations (and consider this one a long-distance dedication for her.) Please feel free to dance.

Monday, December 19, 2005

My Way via the President and Paul Anka

Since TN Jed mentioned it in his comment on the last post, I did some wading thru the Web and found that yes, "the I-Word" or Impeachment, is beginning to stir and raise itself up. When hard-core convervatives like former congressman Bob Barr start calling for it, the ominous clouds of a failed presidency begin to gather.

In the popular phrasing, it's just "wingnuts" and unpatriotic insanity. What actions can the president legally take concerning wiretaps? Is it, as the president claimed, justified to achieve a speedier result rather than slog thru courts seeking approval?

Newsweek columnist Johnathon Alter notes:

"What is especially perplexing about this story is that the 1978 law set up a special court to approve eavesdropping in hours, even minutes, if necessary. In fact, the law allows the government to eavesdrop on its own, then retroactively justify it to the court, essentially obtaining a warrant after the fact. Since 1979, the FISA court has approved tens of thousands of eavesdropping requests and rejected only four. There was no indication the existing system was slow—as the president seemed to claim in his press conference—or in any way required extra-constitutional action."

Uh-oh. Which law applies to who for what? What may appear to be real trouble may just be so confusing for the average American that all this uproar is merely to be another funky story for the fringes of BlogLand. Still, the calls for investigations of impeachment are underway.

Is it just me, or can you hear the strains of Paul Anka's "My Way" playing behind the president as he speaks?

And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I’ll say it clear,
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain.

I’ve lived a life that’s full.
I’ve traveled each and ev’ry highway;
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Regrets, I’ve had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.

I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
But more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall;
And did it my way.

I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried.
I’ve had my fill; my share of losing.
And now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing.

To think I did all that;
And may I say - not in a shy way,
No, oh no not me,
I did it my way.

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows -
And did it my way!

Giving In To Despair

Christmas, 2005.

Just a few days shy of the arrival of the rotund man in red with a bellylaugh and a sleigh crammed with gifts, the national mood is slipping into despair according to the President's speech on Sunday evening. His comment referred to the growing attitude that America's war in Iraq had brought more problems than resolutions and he urged reflection on the concept that positive changes are underway, that we are winning the war. But who said the attitude was "despair"?

It isn't easy to accept the responsibility for mistakes made, regardless of whether you are a president or a waiter. Yet the nation is seeing more and more information which questions how and why we have taken the course of action in the current war. And America loves to second guess, to wonder and to imagine if we are on the best path and if not, then where do we go and how do we get there.

Yet in all the complaints and protests here in this nation, I had not encountered the idea of "despair" mentioned by the president.

So I wonder, who feels despair?

I don't expect you to support everything I do, but tonight I have a request: Do not give in to despair, and do not give up on this fight for freedom."

Thursday, December 15, 2005

TV and Christmas Past

Put on those traveling shoes and go backwards in Time for a look at Christmas and Television the way it used to be. While I have never been part of the "it-was-better-years-ago" crowd, it is interesting to see how American culture has been so vividly and drastically changed with the arrival of half a billion TV channels to choose from compared to the handful of networks and independent channels that existed pre-1980s.

TV has a peek at what was, including the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special (yes, even then the evil secularists had used the word Holiday), plus a look at how the Rudolph special was made and those shows where old Hollywood crooners like Bing or Hope kept the family around the television. Check out the page here. I seem to remember it all changed the year Bing Crosby had David Bowie on his Christmas show.

They have loads of forgotten TV moments. You can rundown the schedule for a Saturday morning cartoon round-up in 1978 which included the Bay City Rollers cartoon, the sixth season of Fat Albert, and lots of superheroes and American Bandstand.

It all looks like ancient history today.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Snake-Oil Standard

"Persuasive guessing has been at the core of leadership for so long—for all of human experience so far—that it is wholly unsurprising that most of the leaders of this planet, in spite of all the information that is suddenly ours, want the guessing to go on, because now it is their turn to guess and be listened to.

Some of the loudest, most proudly ignorant guessing in the world is going on in Washington today. Our leaders are sick of all the solid information that has been dumped on humanity by research and scholarship and investigative reporting.

They think that the whole country is sick of it, and they want standards, and it isn’t the gold standard. They want to put us back on the snake-oil standard."

That's from "A Man Without A Country" by Kurt Vonnegut Jr and featured at In These Times. The full excerpt is here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Five Years After Bush v. Gore

It was Dec. 12, 2000 when the race for president went to George W. Bush instead of Al Gore. Sizing up the last five years is a current fad and ongoing debate.

George Bush is talking again, and I don't have a clue what he's saying. It's not that he's mangling his syntax. That's par for the course. And while it's as amusing as it is disconcerting, I usually think I know what he's trying to say (though I do confess to being stumped by "more and more of our imports are coming from overseas").

Bush is talking about Iraq, which is always confusing for those of us who like our words and facts to match. He's saying he'll "settle for nothing less than total victory". And I'm wondering: what in the world is total victory? Does it mean large numbers of American troops will stay until Iraq is a fully functioning democracy with a vibrant economy and the political will to help spread freedom across the Middle East? That could take, like, 100 years. Or does it mean that we'll stay until we stand up enough Iraqi police officers and soldiers to claim with a straight face that they can handle their own security? That could mean substantial troop reductions in time to prevent total defeat in next year's mid-term elections. I just don't know."

That's one viewpoint among many, which you can read here.

It's All About The Coffee

I can recall my very first cup of coffee - and I can recall the most recent. Coffee stains more than the countertop and the cup.

Since this blog is, after all, about having a Cup of Joe, isn't it time I included some coffee links? Then read on, read on.

Sure, the French and Coca-Cola have their own unique offering, called Coca-Cola Blak. Its part of the new marketing idea of "fusion". Drinks are now something that gets "fused" in the 21st Century.

Coffee has been a part of the development of our modern civilization, and now you can find web logs dedicated to the drink itself, its history, and the various forms coffee can take. I can't imagine a World War Two movie without it or a cowboy campfire. Starbuck's even put a store in the tourist land of Pigeon Forge.

The Links?

Here is one. And another. And another. Or if you are searhing for something in depth, here is a whole list of coffee links. Tennessee of course has an entire Coffee County.

I like the old joke, "I like my coffee like I like my women - dark and murky." Then there's my favorite line from "Twin Peaks" - "Black as coffee on a moonless night." Or from "Ren and Stimpy" - "Mmmmm, my coffee, God Bless you Stimpy, I don't know why I'm all the time mean to you."

Maybe a T-shirt with the caffeine molecule is what you're after. Think Geek has more.

Ahhhhh, coffee.

UPDATE: As mentioned by Julie, there are more coffee issues to consider. One is the campaign to provide Fair Trade Coffee. And a link for Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee. Thanks, Julie!

Monday, December 12, 2005

County Ranks Tops In Health Risks From Pollution

For about 10 years I have been learning how badly polluted the air, water and land in Hamblen County and East Tennessee have become after decades of constant industrialization. The result of the release of deadly toxic pollution have put Hamblen County among the most polluted counties in the nation, not just in the state.

For example:

In 2002, this county ranked among the dirtiest/worst 10% of all counties in the U.S. in terms of total environmental releases."

Based on EPA's most current data, this county ranked among the dirtiest/worst 20% of all counties in the US in terms of an average individual's added cancer risk from hazardous air pollutants."

This information is compiled here, where you can submit your own area code and find out details about how much toxic pollution is released, what illnesses are likely to occur and which industrial sites release the most as well as what toxic elements are released.

The chemicals tracked pose serious risks for Developmental Health and Reproductive Health for every resident. In fact, the county is ranked Number One in toxic air releases that could damage Developmental Health, with almost 18 million pounds of toxic releases in the air alone. The same is true when it comes to toxic releases that could damage Reproductive Health.

Cardiovascular or blood toxicants also leave the county ranked as the worst in the state.

The information is staggering and while it might take you some time to review the information here, it may shed much light on the poor health conditions that exist, the potential damage you risk by breathing the air or drinking the water and which industrial entities are to blame.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Camera Obscura: Lions, Zombies, Sam and Katie

Gather round, sit, have a Christmas cookie, and of course I'll talk to you about movies - even some television too, yes, and your comments are welcome - when I am done!! Hang on, we're time traveling quickly, from the 1800s to the 1950s to the world within a child's mind to the war in Iraq. (Oh is this gonna be good.)

First, back in the 1950s, theologist C.S Lewis began publishing a series of books, beginning with "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe," a parable/fantasy about Christianity and the battle between Good and Evil. Now with the success of "Lord of The Rings," (of course Lewis and Tolkien were friends) and the Harry Potter series, we get the CGI-heavy "Chronicles of Narnia". Personally, of Lewis' writings, I always liked his science fiction trilogy better (it was really powerful and scary and thougtful) and the satiric "Screwtape Letters" wherein Satan advises an upwardly-mobile demon on how best to tempt a human and steal his soul.

An interesting blog, Hollywood Jesus, following the making of the movie is here, produced by the same makers of the movies "Holes" and "Because of Winn-Dixie," Walden Media and their plans to improve movies in America. Will the Lion, Aslan, entertain audiences on the big screen? Time will tell.

And Time moves to the Present now and almost the Future in a vivid indictment of all things related to the War in Iraq in the horror epsiode of Showtime's Masters of Horror with the recent "Homecoming" installment. Here, undead soldiers from the un-named but certainly Iraq War, return to America intent on voting out the politicians who sent them to war. This one-hour event is so up-to-the-minute fresh - including an Ann Coulter clone who is as pricky-evil as can be - I was stunned Fox News didn't break in the movie to debunk it.

Director Joe Dante makes zombies rise up to chase George Bush from office and as one writer for Slate notes:

What's shocking about Dante's Homecoming is that he dispenses with the usual horror subtext completely. Pundits go on TV to defend the living dead's right to vote until they find out they're not voting Republican. Zombies rise from the grave, wrapped in the American flag. There's even a Cindy Sheehan stand-in with a zombie son. Nothing is too recent or too raw."

The entire Slate article is here.

Now let's jump back in the Time Machine and land in the Old West. I love Westerns, no doubt and I am a bona fide Sam Peckinpah fan too and was delighted to read this week about the January 2006 release of a restored version of "Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid." As usual, critics of the day hated the movie, but time itself has returned to show favor to Peckinpah's story of dying cowboys and shattered American heroes. This new two-disc set has much new commentary and runs 115 minutes, and not for every taste, it still presents Peckinpah's vision intact. James Coburn, Kris Kristofferson and Bob Dylan (in a nearly wordless role) star in the film. And another star is Dylan's soundtrack - still one of my favorites ever.

Some other notable DVDs released or on their way can be found here.

Ah, yes, one more item, somewhere outstide of Time: What if Katie Couric were to anchor the CBS Evening News??? What would that be like?

"Another car bomb went off in downtown Baghdad today, marking a further escalation in the violence that has plagued Iraq over the past two and a half years. There is still no official word on how survivors of the bombing feel about the upcoming Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes baby."

The rest of Katie's newscast is here.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Griswold Greeting

I am always glad when Christmas arrives - usually.

This year has not been my best as I struggle with losing my job and finding another. Fortunately I have been more than a little blessed by many good friends, who have helped me keep my gaze focused upwards and not down. For them, I wish the best not only on Christmas, but for every day of the year.

As for my former employer - this video is jes' for you. (Thanks, Jed, for the link to YouTube.)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A Twisted Case of Abuse, Life and Death

There is an astonishing legal case unfolding in Massachusetts, involving a nearly dead 11-year-old girl, and whether or not she should be removed from life-support, and the pleas of the suspect in the beating of the child, her step-father, who wants legal custody of her. His lawyer says if the girl dies, his clent then faces a murder charge.

The grim and grisly details of what happened to young Haileigh Poutre at the hands of her step-father, Jason Strickland and her adoptive mother, Holli, who was her aunt, indicate the child was beaten with a baseball bat and thrown down the stairs more than once. According to the news report, her aunt was killed shortly after Strickland and Holli were released on bail, but that incident is also still being investigated:

Within two weeks of the couple pleading innocent to the beating, Holli Strickland was dead, fatally shot in her grandmother’s West Springfield apartment. The body of her 71-year-old grandmother, Constance Young, was beside her. The possible double suicide or murder-suicide is still under investigation.

In a legal brief filed before Tuesday’s hearing, Strickland, 31, asks to be declared Haleigh’s de facto parent. His lawyer, John Egan, insists his client is not motivated by the chance he could be charged with murder if the girl dies."

Holli, who had a degree in child care, and Strickland, both attacked the child, according to one witness:

"But Alicia Weiss, a baby sitter for Haleigh, testified at a hearing in Strickland’s criminal case that she saw Holli Strickland kick the girl down the stairs repeatedly and hit her with a baseball bat. She said she also saw Jason Strickland hit the girl twice with an open hand and once with a plastic stick.

Although he has not been accused of dealing any particular blows to the child, court documents accuse Strickland of watching as his wife abused Haleigh."

The state's Supreme Court heard the case Tuesday, though Justices indicated Strickland had no real standing in a custody claim.

The state's Department of Social Services now has legal custody of the comatose child, and doctors are saying she will never come out of her vegetative state.

Within the maze of abuse and abandonment and legal rights, the child remains in the center spotlight. What will the courts do? Will more state officials argue for the girl's life-support to be suspended? And is there any punishment which might suit this string of brutal crimes?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A War On Christmas?

UPDATE 2 - From the Press Briefing at the White House:

Q: Scott, you very graciously answered seven questions from two reporters, and I have a mere three-part question. First, at the National Christmas Tree lighting last week the President said, "Each year we gather here to celebrate the season of hope and joy, and to remember the story of one humble life that lifted the sights of humanity. Santa, thanks for coming." And the question: Will the President apologize to Christians offended by his referring to Jesus as Santa?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President meant exactly what he said, Les."

UPDATE: First, what the heck is a MegaChurch (outside of a Japanese anime series) and second, why would they close on Christmas Sunday?
Now on to the rest of today's post .....

A comment last week on the Very Unscientific Survey noted the current effort to remove the word Christmas from our language. So I did some checking - seems the White House is in on it.

Even using the word Christmas and Winter together are, apparently, wrong.

Maybe the real issue is this ever-evolving (or if you prefer, Intelligently Designed) use of the word War. There's the Culture War, the Cola War, the non-War against non-insurgents in Iraq and the Axis of Evil, the Diet War, the Red-State, Blue-State War, the obesity War, the anti-War, the pro-War .... I'm dizzy, lemme sit down for a moment.

Whew. (And thanks to all those, by the way, who took time to take that survey. I promise to ask fewer questions next time.)

Perhaps the American mind is jes' gettin' a little paranoid. Any viewpoint contrary to your own is reason enough to invoke War. I'm more than a little tired of it. It's like a bunch of whining children in the playroom - "Are too!!" "Am not!!" "Uh-huh!" Nuh-uh!" "Waaaaaaaa ......."

Somebody changes these diapers, give them a cookie and some coloring books and lets see if the rest of us can reclaim some normalcy.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Worst of the Worst

He's been called the "Worst of the Worst," and he even has a "little list" he's keeping on the folks he says are out to get him. And he says, that Christmas itself is under attack.

Bill O'Reilly may be the Fox News equivalent of Howard Stern -- people love him or hate him and there is no middle ground.

Both of these "media masters" are proof that controversy, no matter how ridiculous, sells.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Camera Obscura - I Am King Kong

With a new version of the classic "King Kong" on the way from Peter Jackson, a new documentary about the man who made the original Kong is a treasure trove of a seldom-celebrated innovator. Turner Classic Movies aired the documentary last week, "I Am King Kong: The Exploits Of Merian C. Cooper," and it is part of a new DVD set. (And not to forget, there's an East Tennessee connection to King Kong lore, but more on that later.)

Merian C. Cooper did far more than create a lasting iconic image of a Beast stuck atop a city skyscraper - he was an old-fashioned explorer and adventurer, a bomber pilot who even years after Kong became a Brigadier General, who helped turn Hollywood into a Technicolor marvel and that's barely the story. During World War 2, he and director John Ford met and returned to Hollywood to make movies that created another enduring American Icon - the cowboy. The two paired up for some of Ford's best work, from "She Wore A Yellow Ribbon" and "Fort Apache" to "The Quiet Man" and one of the best Westerns ever made, "The Searchers."

Why does Kong endure? It is a brilliant bit of insight into the collision of the old and the new, and modeler Willis O'Brien also made an excellent and articulate creature - the nuances of character are vivid and funny and almost human. There are also insights into Obsessions and Mythmaking in an America on its way to becoming a World power. The movie leaps from Hollywood to the Prehistoric and then back to the modern city and never misses a beat. The Great Beast, as was said in the film, was killed by beauty -- but to me it was the Ape's encounter with Greed which led to his demise. (And yes, I know there was a re-make in the 70s but it has all the power of a broken light switch.)

Here are some excerpts from TCM's profile of Cooper:

Before he fell under the spell of the movies, Cooper served as a bomber pilot in WWI. While flying in a mission over German lines, his plane caught fire. Though he succeeded in landing it and saving the life of his wounded gunner, he was taken prisoner by the Germans. Thinking him dead, the military sent an official death notice to his family. After the war, Cooper joined a group of American volunteer fliers committed to defending Poland against Russian aggression. He once again became a war prisoner, this time of the Russians. After being sentenced to death, he managed to escape, walking 400 miles across hostile terrain. After refusing honors from a grateful Poland, Cooper embarked on a life as an adventurer. He joined forces with cameraman Ernest B. Schoedsack and went deep into Persia to record the migration across river and mountain of the Bakhtiari tribe. Never before witnessed by westerners, this event became the landmark 1925 documentary Grass and led to a contract with Paramount. For their next project, 1927's Chang, Cooper and Schoedsack lived for a year in the jungle of Siam, filming the story of a family's struggle to survive amongst the marauding animal life. The way they photographed animals in the wild broke new ground, especially when it came to the climax, an astonishing sequence in which a massive herd of elephants stampede through a native village. Their third film, 1929's The Four Feathers, interpolated their trademark location shooting, this time in Africa, with the telling of a classic adventure yarn.

With Europe at war once again, Cooper was convinced it was only a matter of time before the United States joined the conflict. In June 1941, six months before Pearl Harbor, he once again put his film career on hold and left his family to return to active duty. When war was declared with Japan, Cooper was posted to the legendary Flying Tigers in China, where he became chief of staff to General Claire Chennault. Despite his age, Cooper was determined to see action from a cockpit and not just a desk. This fighting spirit may have impressed those who served around him, but it caused problems with those above, who consistently blocked his promotion. It would not be until several years after the war's end that he would be promoted to the rank of Brigadier General, but by then he was back in Hollywood. Cooper had joined forces with John Ford before the war, and with the war now over, they could revive their production company, Argosy. Though Ford could be the most difficult of people, he had enormous respect for Cooper.

As a fitting cap to his career, Cooper produced and co-directed the film that would launch the widescreen revolution:
This Is Cinerama. It was Cooper, the daredevil adventurer, who startled audiences with the thrilling rollercoaster ride that opened the show, and it was Cooper, the patriotic aviator, who stirred their hearts at the climax, as the camera soared in a plane from coast to coast

Cooper also had to place himself in the Kong movie as he pilots the plane that fired the fatal shot and left the Beast to tumble to the ground.

Sequels followed, and as mentioned, a massive remake was released in the 70s, and here is where East TN joins in on the Ape Legend.

"King Kong Lives," the sequel to the 70s film, was shot in Fall Creek Falls State Park - 2009 Village Camp Road, Pikeville, Tennessee, and in Pigeon Forge. And it is really, really awful. I mean really. Although, I should also mention the very odd and funny "King Kong vs. Godzilla" (1962), which is like watching a bad wrestling match, the kind you might find in some odd and forgotten roadside attraction late one some summer's night, when the workers put on weird outfits and play games -- only Japan could have made this one.

Kong's story is also a part of "Gone With the Wind". When the city of Atlanta burns, filmmakers burned tons of old sets around the movie lot, including that massive wooden fence from Skull Island which was supposed to keep Kong at bay -- but as has often been noted, why did they build a huge wall and then put a door in it big enough for Kong to walk thru?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A Very Un-Scientific Survey

I want to know more about you, dear readers, and what burning (or at least piping-hot) issues tumble through your thoughts. Back in Ye Olde Radio Days, I used to conduct what I called a Very Un-Scientific Survey and today this event lands smack dab in the middle of your Cup of Joe.
Answer as many or as few as you wish - if you want to explain your answer go ahead and do so or just add your comment and go about your business.

Remember - This is Very Un-Scientific.

Questions For Readers:

1. On a scale of One to Ten, with One being lowest and Ten being highest, what score would you give the changes and reform in TennCare or Medicare?

2. Which issue would you say should be the top priority for state government funding - Education or Health Care or another issue?

3. Again on a scale of One to Ten, what score would you give the success of President Bush in leading the country?

4. Name at least three politicians, state or national, under ethics or criminal investigation. Is this normal, abnormal or unheard of?

5. Where do you get most of your news/information - Television, Internet, Radio, Newspapers, Friends, Blogs, etc etc.

6. What news story or recent information you've read and or heard in the last month made you angry?

7. What story made you happy?

8. What has been the best movie you've seen this year?

9. What has been the best music you've heard this year?

10. If you were fortunate enough to have a Thanksgiving feast with friends or family, what food made you happiest to eat?

Okay, that's it. That wasn't too bad, was it? I may try this type of survey again or I may not, depending on what you, dear readers, tell me.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Not So Much A Secret in the Secret City

The proof of the power of words continues to swirl in the "Secret City" over the infamous high school editorial. According to the Knox News-Sentinel, (reg. required) the offending (and accurate) information about birth control has been replaced with an Editorial about a play being performed at the school - Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest". Now that's just too funny!

The censorship and outrage and the publicity have likely made the student's comments become much more widely read and discussed than anyone may have imagined possible.

Say Uncle has some good points on the issue - as well as mentioning that the issue will be debated on WBIR-TV this weekend.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Shocking News! Teens Talk About Sex!!!

Over in the "Secret City", aka Oak Ridge, the state and national media has been alerted!! Teenagers talk about sex! And birth control!! And how NOT to get pregnant and NOT get diseases. Outraged school officials immediately seized copies of the school's paper (The Fig Leaf? no, wait, The Oak Leaf) and promptly ended any further student discussion about sex.

Riiiiiiight. Sure they did.

You can read the "horrifying" (and factual) editorial by a student on birth control and how to get it (thank God children never see these items in a store or anything) via this page from Whites Creek Journal.

More information is at Tennessee Guerilla Women, who notes that here in America, teen pregnancy rates have dropped to 34% -- which according to a 2004 study is the highest rate among developed countries. (Thank God we're developed!)

Juliepatchouli also blogs her views on the topic, as have others in Tennessee and beyond. In the "Secret City", there's fear the ACLU may appear on the horizon like Satan on horseback, probing the mystery of the Censored Student News.

Of course, I also heard the obligatory parent complaint that they did NOT want schools to be involved with communicating information about sex to THEIR kid. I hate to rain on that illusion, but teens and pre-teens (and even adults) learn about everything from each other all the time. Teens and adults alike just won't shut up - kids talk about their parents' divorces, and ask questions and generally talk about everything.

Thank God most teens can come home to watch the TV in their room while surfing the internet and talking on cell phones. You know, safe stuff like that.

The State Tax Turmoil

With projections of as many as 4,500 new pieces of legislation headed for the next session of the state's upcoming legislative session, one or two issues are once again getting some discussion including one debate sure to return with renewed energy -- the so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR).

Other states as well are trying to create ways to limit the rapid growth of government spending while coping with growing demand for more increases to handle the ballooning costs of health care and education alone. However, the state has so many court orders on just how to fund these agencies, the legislature is operating under pressures from beyond the ballot box.

Truth is, the state already has language in the law to limit spending growth based on population and revenue growth, however the courts have made decrees about teacher pay and school funding and health care that step outside those boundaries.

And we are hardly alone in this maze of taxation -- Colorado, which has been the poster-boy for TABOR saw voters agree to changes in TABOR for a five year period, essentially limiting any potential state tax refunds in order to insure the state can provide a fully funded budget. The argument that TABOR is in fine shape in Colorado is made here by the Colorado State Treasurer.

Another view of whether or not TABOR is beneficial to states and taxpayers can be found here.

Other states are also in conflict over what to do and how to do it.

If you ask most residents of Tennessee, you'll find there are two key issues on their minds - jobs with better pay and consistent availability, and the nightmare of health care costs. Who should set the priorities of spending and at what levels of funding they receive are being stacked and prepared for the next election-promise cycle, but will any real changes occur?

Monday, November 28, 2005

No Sunshine On Tennessee Secrets

How often do your elected city, county or school board officials meet in secret to make decisions?

Keeping track is nearly impossible. Many meetings are held when the public is least able to attend, and many times officials meet in small groups to make decisions prior to any public debate or awareness.

The vast majority of Tennesseans have been kept in the dark for so long, they have no concept of how much their rights are violated. The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government's most recent report shows secrecy is increasing.

One story on that report is here.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


Stuffed with food like the turkey we devoured on Thanksgiving Day in Georgia, I fell into a deep and dreamful sleep, chasing cranberry relish visions and scampering slabs pumpkin pie, which sought to flee from my fork all to no avail.

The dream swirls with images, packed bumper to bumper like the traffic down I-40 and I-75, families and really-not-so-much families in cars and SUVs crammed to the ceiling with gifts and tupperwared remnants of sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes and casseroles and hot-buttered-but-now-cold dinner rolls. A bounty of feasting and a parade of the leftovers traveling north and south and east and west across America as the holiday blurs into the shopping days where retailers dream of profits of Christmas future.

I make a stop in South Knox to decompress from families and the battle of the endless traffic, sipping wine and laughing with my new best friend until the wee hours of the morning. I have so much to be thankful for and I hope I say it enough. She makes me smile and we listen to Johnny Cash and Van Morrison and the sometimes wee barks of a tiny dog who finds the oddest things to gnaw upon in the early dawn hours.

Then back on the road to Home, stopping to get necessities at a nearby MegaWhopperRetailWarehouseStore where men and women wearing Christmas sweaters and Grinch T-shirts shove shopping carts thru a maze DVDs and trainsets and specially boxed-sets of shampoos and bath-oils and techno-gadgets, steering their carts through the aisles like Captains on a boundless sea, searching for the discounts which will soon find their way into boxes wrapped in shiny paper, the shoppers like neo-hunter/gatherers tracking the spoils of discount sales.

Home now, and in this dream of the Holi-daze, I look for a nap as the dream has been exhausting in itself. But I know it is only the beginning of a month of carving paths between the shopper/hunters who track elusive bargains armed with lists and pencils and I know again this year, I will be focusing instead on gifts I can make myself, collections of words and music and perhaps candles made to give flickering lights as December nights turns slowly moment-by-moment into the Year to Come.

The bloggers have hung their posts with care, wondering if the Technarati Saint Nick will lead a Google-Search-Sleigh down the chimneys and curl into their mailboxes and e-links.

But yes, Home now, both in the dream and awake - and I feel the stirrings of feasts and fellowship ahead, count my blessings and drift into another nap.

If home is where the heart is, I have found I have homes to numerous to count, and I try to express my gratitiude and send my best thoughts to all. Soon so many houses and neighborhoods will twinkle with lights and giant blow-up snow-globes gathered on lawns like totems to happiness and hope.

And I hope your first steps into the world of gifts and wishes will bring the Joys you seek for yourself and for others.

(oh and look for some posts next week about Faith Hill who hugged my brother-in-law Fred on her TV special )

Monday, November 21, 2005

A Trailer Is Worth 1,000 Words

It's the fall movie season -- which movie will rise to the top? A feel-good hit of the year? More Harry Potter Magic? Johnny Cash? Thanks to a heads-up from The Poor Man's Weekly, I found this teaser-trailer about a movie called "Dubya." (It's a QuickTime and funnier/scarier than you may want to admit.)

Check out the movie here.

Pay Raises Not A Part of Trimming Fed Budget

I'm sure you've seen this news already, but I have to offer some thoughts on it. Some years back Congress came up with a way to get yearly raises by NOT voting for them. They get these raises automatically unless they vote to not receive them. Wonder what the anti-worker crowd would say if union and non-union workers could get such a provision in their work agreements? And this year's non-vote increase occurs as Congress works to decided what U.S. programs to cut money away from.

And I was most happy to see Congress reconsidering the plan to make key elements to the so-called "Patriot Act" go on and on, with some calling for a seven year extension. But voters have been very loud about ending some of these provisions by year's end.

"I didn't come to Washington, D.C., to expand the police powers of the federal government," said Representative Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California. "To make these temporary expansions of police power permanent as our way of life, changing our way of life in America, altering the balance of liberty and police powers, is outrageous."

Since most lawmakers are taking off for the holidays, this gives you a chance to make some of those hockey-puck shaped sweet potatoes with marshmellows on the top (Yuck!) and take them over to their homes (unless they are all at vacation hideaways) and say "Here's something for the holidays and by the way, I don't want that Act extended!")

Which also leads the burning question I ponder each Thanksgiving -- What is the difference between a "sweet potato" and a "yam?" Its these kind of things that keep me awake at night.

UPDATE: The wise and witty Julie helped ease my concerns about the debate over yams and sweet taters -- discover the facts for yourself here.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Camera Obscura - Just Weird

Some things the world does NOT need:

A TV-movie remake of "The Poseidon Adventure", which hits NBC Sunday night. At least its not a reality show and it hits the airwaves just before next year's big-screen remake which features a gay couple. People get paid for this crap??

Fox has ordered up a series based on the "Terminator" movies and plan to call it "The Sarah Connor Chronicles." My advice to anyone involved in the production is cash those paychecks quickly and then get ready for the entire 6-episode DVD set soon to follow. Yeesh.

The current season of "The Simpsons." Please stop this show. I am hopeful the big-screen movie in production now is getting all the good writing and satire missing from the show for last year or so. The first eight or ten seasons are priceless, but it just isn't aging well and the bite is gone. And try as hard as they might, "Family Guy" and "American Dad" just don't make the grade for me. I think the shows are satires of how bad TV shows can be -- but that's like shooting fish in a shot glass. Let the bashing of my opinion begin.

Now for some more interesting viewing choices.

At least, I think this could be interesting. The NBC show "Medium" has a 3-D episode on Monday, and features a CGI-altered Rod Serling introducing the show and telling you how/when to wear the 3-D glasses (which are in the new magazine format TV Guide). I sort of like this show which is a cross between "Bewitched", "Columbo" and "Memento," but it is a guilty pleasure.

Speaking of 3-D, let me get nostalgic. Back in the early 80s, a highly profitable (and utterly silly) group of 3-D movies were released, "Friday the 13th 3-D" and "Jaws 3-D". A small theatre in Morristown somehow then followed that up with a re-release of the 1973 release "Andy Warhol's Frankenstein" in 3-D. I nearly wrecked my car as I saw that title up on the marquee -- wha???? Someone thinks Morristown is gonna go for Andy freakin' Warhol??? Of course, I HAD to go see this, if only to watch the revulsion grow faster than kudzu thru the audience. I was not disappointed. Folks brought their kids to see this one -- I laughed so hard I had a nosebleed as the movie unspooled and all the weirdness stomped into the room and the audience kept up a mantra of "Dang! What the heck is this?" Sadly, some of my favorite lines are not suitable for this blog. Suffice to say that by the time the credits rolled, the theatre which had been packed to capacity, consisted of myself and two friends (who had both wanted to leave.) Now, Udo Kier shows up in everything - I'm waiting for guest shots on "Desperate Housewives" and "The West Wing."

Just one more thought unconnected to anything else in this post - Oone of the funniest movie titles my double-entendre mind has encountered lately: "Tarzan's Magic Fountain." Heh heh.

Oh, one more great moment in Celebrity History - Rex L. Camino's post this week about Paris Hilton's monkey attacking her in a lingerie shop. Yes, that's what I said. God Bless you Rex, and God Bless that monkey too. (Paris named the monkey Baby Luv.)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Crumbling Conservatives?

While the mind-numbing CIA case about Valerie and Scooter now includes the Washington Post and Bob Woodward, there are some keen observations about the Conservative stance in the current administration and in Congress from columnist George Will. (WaPo reg. required)

Part of his opinion piece focuses on that fact that voters in PA booted the school board members who abandoned Science in favor of the utterly mis-named "Intelligent Design" approach. That board opted for the teaching of the "supernatural" and deleted from the definition of science the phrase "a search for natural explanations of observable science." Ummmm -- that IS science isn't it??

And he also notes that spending under the Republicans is an out-of-control machine, where "pork spending" in 1991 was numbered at 546 projects for a total of $3.1 billion, and in 2005 the pork projects number 13,997 at a price of $27.3 billion.

What's a voter to do? Is any political party addressing real issues? Dissent is Evil, says the V.P., and now I suppose Dissent is yet another arm of the Axis of Evil.

And whatever "agreements" are made in Congress regarding the provisions of the mis-named "Patriot Act", I defy anyone to name a single reason to by-pass explicit Constitutional Laws about ammending our Constitution or at best why on earth we would need to deem these fundamental changes as Permanent ones.

Tiny factions of active and loud fanatics have seized the policymakers by their endless Fundraising Balls.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Say Wha ????

Found a nifty bit of political insight at Nashville is Talking, about radio talk show host Steve Gill, who says the East Tennessee Republicans are the ones who empower and will re-elect Gov. Bredesen.

In Middle Tennessee and West Tennessee, I think the Republican base is not fond of Bredesen. And the Democratic base isn’t particularly fond of Bredesen,” Gill says. “What’s holding his numbers is that East Tennessee Republican base."

I know radio hosting can give ya the impression of Always Being Right -- but Steve, who failed on a few runs at Congress should also note that few residents outside of the mid-state know diddly-squat about him.

The again, who knows? Maybe the ET GOP is full of Bredesen Love. (snicker!)

The stumping for the hallowed halls of Eternal Office Holders is certainly underway, and my money is going on the spot that says "Nationwide Cat-Fight". Sadly, the Loser is always the same - the voter. They are outnumbered by the apathetic and the pathetically rich.

East Tennessee has to cope with comments like this from GOP Senator Steve Southerland, speaking Monday in Greeneville to supporters as reported in the Greeneville Sun:

Southerland first read some of those comments by Greeneville lawyer John T. Milburn Rogers to his audience.

Rogers had told a recent meeting of the Greene County Democratic Women’s Club, “Republicans have somehow, due to inept Democratic leadership, hijacked Christians.” In addition, Rogers had said, “I don’t believe God is a ruler of man, and man the ruler of woman.”

The Greeneville attorney had charged fundamentalist Christians “want you (women) powerless, and only to speak when spoken to.” Southerland responded to Rogers’ comments by saying, “I believe God is the creator of man ... and I will put Him first” as a state senator if re-elected.

Rogers also previously had said, “The greatest threat to our system of democracy ... particularly to the American woman, is the attack (Bush advisor) Karl Rove and the far right (are leading) against a clear demarcation of church and state.”

Rogers also said, “Your rights as American women (to have abortions) may be abolished by the Supreme Court” if Bush succeeds in placing conservative judges on the nation’s highest court.

Responding, Southerland said, “I’ve always voted pro-life, and always will vote pro-life.”

In addition to describing himself as “right-to-life” on the abortion issue, Southerland said he has voted consistently to keep taxes low, and that he was proud to serve as a member of the state Senate’s Ethics Committee, and as chaplain of the Senate Republicans’ caucus."

It does get confusing -- Southerland went on to say this:

Southerland said his Democratic critics who complain that Tennessee is 48th in the nation in terms of spending for public education are being shortsighted, because students overall in the state are being better educated.

To prove that, he said Tennessee was ranked 12th nationally last year in terms of SAT scores for high school students."

That's an argument I've been making for years as the local school board consumes ever more dollars and points accusing fingers at anyone who dares hold THEM accountable for their constantly rising costs.

And since I'm on the local topic of county politics - Here in Hamblen County, another down and dirty catfight is ahead as every seat on the County Commission is up for re-election, and so are the offices of County Mayor and Sheriff. Hopefully, you've not been caught up in the tornado-spin of cursing aimed at the most recently elected members of the Commission and realize that voters in each district need to hold their representatives accountable, that's VOTERS and not the MEDIA spin.

But realistic and pragmatic views tell me: party politics always outweigh the needs of the public. Who knows, by election day there may be so much Chaos over non-issues and emotional wailing that party nonsense will galvanize more folks to actually come forth and think for themselves. That my friends, is called Foolish Optimism.

Guess I'll jes grab my popcorn and watch the catfight.

On Anonymous Blogging

It's pretty obvious I am not an anonymous blogger -- my name is part of the title, much to the dismay of my mother - "You're using your real name?" To which I replied I have been writing and reporting and otherwise shamelessly self-promoting myself for years and see no reason to stop.

Both Say Uncle and No Silence Here (see the specific links further in this post) have noted an outraged resident, who accuses an anonymous blogger of being akin to a "terrorist" and it seems to highlight a particular madness in 21st century America -- that Free Speech and Constitutional Rights are bothersome roadblocks to something-or-other, and should be controlled and contained and restrained. It's a truly deranged mindset and rolls back American History like it was a dirty, smelly rug to be tossed into the trash.

I urge you to read the entire post from Say Uncle here, in which he concludes with the thoughts:

Keep it up pesky anonymous bloggers. We are the new press. Somebody had to step up because the politicians took over the old press. Remember the lesson learned by South Knox Bubba, the politicos will lean on you if they can."

No Silence Here weighs in with his take on the issue here.

In 1995 the Supreme Court issued an opinion on a case, McIntyre vs. Ohio Elections Commission, regarding a woman who was issuing an anonymous pamphlet opposing a proposed school tax. The Court held her actions were protected by the First Ammendment.

In an article byJulie Hilden at, she considers the threats to Free Speech on the Internet in general and the McIntyre case in particular, noting:

"Accordingly, the Court could have written a very narrow opinion had it chosen to do so. But, significantly, it did not. Instead, six of the majority Justices including moderate-to-conservative Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy joined an opinion, penned by Justice Stevens, that not only protected but applauded anonymous speech.

The opinion proclaimed (as had an earlier case) that [a]nonymous pamphlets, leaflets, brochures and even books have played an important role in the progress of mankind, and cited numerous examples of the positive uses of anonymity in, for example, the Federalist Papers while taking little notice of anonymity's bad side."

When Knox County GOP leader Brian Hornback offered up this view via Say Uncle, it got my attention:

My point is this, bloggers that have enough intestinal fortitude to put it out there, knowing that their identity is on the line have far more credibility than those that want to remain anonymous. When I look at a blog and the person is a coward that refuses to reveal who they are. I ignore them and tell others to ignore them, they have NO credibility. If you are going to spend your time to affect public opinion and public policy then be man or woman enough to identify yourself.”

And no, it is hardly surprising that Hornback won't allow comments on his blog.

Speech must be controlled, seems to be the opinion. That, as I said, is an idea that ignores history, limits personal freedom and the First Ammendment, and marginalizes the fact that citizens rights are vital to our nation.

Do I support every viewpoint expressed on the Internet or around the corner? No. But I do support the freedom of expression. Read it or not, write it or not -- Free Speech is the conerstone of our rights. There have been deafenening wails that money contributed to a political campaign is Free Speech and should be protected -- I doubt it. Money is a form of influence and affluence, but nothing, not even money, can reach the power of Words.

That's why some folks fear them.

You may find those who agree with you, or you may find your views are utterly rejected.