Saturday, August 20, 2005

Dr. Hunter S Thompson - In Memoriam

Today in a cannon the height of the Statue of Liberty in Woody Creek, Colorado, Johnny Depp will fire off a blast of the final remains of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. The Doc had become so ill, so dependent on others, he decided to take his own life in February of this year. He will be as explosive in death as in life.

He was a good part among several other influences which led me to write about Politics and America. (They are NOT the same thing.) Of course, being a good Southern-born lad from Kentucky, the words and stories Thompson poured out created an American saga like no other. People feared him, respected him, or just sought his presence, likely because he could tell both the Truth and the Lie so well. Oh, the anecdotes are as common as flies in summer, but the Doc had the words and the questions no one had the guts to speak for generations.

One of my favorites was aimed at American "journalists":
"With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms."

One of the first collections I read many years ago was "The Great Shark Hunt" and laughed so hard and learned so many things, I gained my first understanding about what an American writer could he. His 1974 essay "Fear and Loathing At The Super Bowl" joined us like twin sons thanks to events in my life in 1989. Fate had provided yours truly with a free trip on NBC's tab to the Doral Country Club in Miami to live among the Rolls Royce crowd for days as I covered the Super Bowl. I relished the opportunity to follow in the Doctor's mighty footsteps and stood on my bungalow balcony on that sacred Sunday morning and read aloud from a goofy religious pamphlet, again, which Fate had left on a bathroom floor in a downtown Miami bar the night before just for me, and just as the Doc had discovered outside his hotel room for himself those many years ago. Adorned in a flimsy hotel bathrobe, I extolled the Sunday faithful of Our duty that day in a manner I hoped the Doctor would bless.

Which leads to another of my favorite Thompson quotes:
"A word to the wise is infuriating."

I read more of his books and essays, always laughing, often outraged and usually illustrated by the absurd America as captured by artist Ralph Steadman, who said of the Doctor's passing: "...he was a real American, a pioneer, with a huge and raging mind .... He was a genuine son of the Kentucky pioneers."

In 1999, in an article titled "Hey Rube, I Love You" for Rolling Stone, he says he was a reckless juvenile delinquent who stole cars and "and did a lot of fast driving in places like Nashville ... We needed music on those nights and it usually came on the radio, on the 50,000 watt clear-channel stations like WWL in New Orleans and WLAC in Nashville. That is where I went wrong, I guess -- listening to WLAC and driving all night across Tennessee in a stolen car that wouldn't be reported for three days. That is how I got introduced to Howlin' Wolf. We didn't know him, but we liked him and we knew what he was talking about. ... Music has always been a matter of Energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."

In the last few years, the very ill Doctor could barely move on his own, but his words were as sharp and insightful as ever. -- He saw America becoming a land of mindless Fear:
"We are turning into a nation of whimpering slaves to Fear -- fear of war, fear of poverty, fear or random terrorism, fear of being down-sized or fired because of a plunging economy, fear of getting evicted for bad debts, or suddenly getting locked up in a military detention camp on vague charges..."

The humor in America was fading -- and he saw something else on the horizon that also brought him a measure of despair and some shame, too, I think -
"If we get chased out of Iraq with our tail between our legs, that will be the fifth consecutive Third-world country with no hint of a Navy or an Air Force to have whipped us in the past 40 years."

I want to hope that the tens of thousands of daily web loggers are making voices loud enough to be heard over the idiotic crap called Mass Media, that we will rememeber the Constitution says all power belongs to citizens and not politicians. And we need the ability to laugh at ourselves. I will and I do miss the Doctor, but the work continues.

In the epigraph to "The Great Shark Hunt", he writes a quote he credits to J. Conrad, although my research shows it goes back to Hippocrates, and even Goethe. "Art is long and life is short."
A bit more research showed me another version in the poem "A Psalm of Life" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - See ya round, Doc.

"Art is long and time is fleeting
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still like muffled drums are beating
Funeral marches to the grave."

Friday, August 19, 2005

Camera Obscura at the Movies

Yes, dear reader, I want you to know what I've been viewing. And what YOU have been watching too. In a few weeks, I will offer those unfortunates who want to challenge my Vast Film Knowledge a chance to stump me with a movie trivia quote and will have Prizes to award the winners (if there are any).

But feel free to post movie comments, reviews, questions on this regular Friday location of yer Cup of Joe.

What have I been viewing or anticiapting? Send the children away, this is all for grown-ups.

Be sure to watch for the latest releases from Crewless Productions, which is a bunch of Bama boys who've been working on some funny horror/comedies and have attracted the attention of filmmakers Kevin Smith and Film Threat and bloggers like Ain' I just watched "Hide and Creep," which is a hit and miss comedy-zombie entry that was way better than you might think. Yes, Ultra-low-budget, but some very funny stuff. The DVD includes a very funny short film as a couple of good ole boys battle the Undead during a phone call to a friend. Crewless must have seen a lot of Sam Raimi and George Romero, but then again, so have I. Ah, George -- watching your visions of one culture consuming another is truly American Cinema at its best.

Don't know if anyone else in TN is thinking this but -- where in the sam hill is the movie actress/director Asia Argento made in Knoxville??? "The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things" played to terrible reviews at the Toronto Film Festival and I guess she can't find a distributor for it now. I'm hoping for at least a DVD release, but even Asia's web page has no real info into availability. It may be the movie no one ever sees .... It has been playing at festivals in the US and Europe for a year or two and the latest release date in the US I could find is slated for March 2006. Go to the movie's web site, where trailers and details about this oddity are available. Betcha cash money the Knoxville Chamber wants to bury this one in a vault. Warning -- this is a Capital W fer Weird movie.

And now that I've introduced the letter W, that brings up the spankin' new movie from Werner Herzog, "Grizzly Man" is not in ET yet but hits Knoxville screens on Sept. 2nd, but do not miss this one about a luckless loser Tim Treadway, who thought he could just go live with wild grizzly bears and did so until they ate him and his girlfriend. A perfect topic for the astonishing Werner Herzog, whose camera captures Obsession like no one else. If you have never seen a Herzog movie in a movie theater, you have missed one of the great experiences of modern cinema. "Fitzcarraldo" and "Aguirra" are etched into my memory like Proust carved them into my psyche with a razor blade.

For your DVD pick of the week accept no substitutes for "Sin City".
Frank Miller justly gets co-directing credit with Robert Rodriguez. Miller's black and white brilliance shows what all those film noir movies could only hint -- at his dark criminal world makes Batman's Gotham City look like Disney's Main Street USA. Villian of the Year goes to that cute little Elijah Wood, aka Frodo, whose incarnation of Evil Bad Guy would make Hannibal Lecter scream like a girly-man. Brilliant casting all around -- must also mention that Mickey Rourke was born to play Marv. This ain't no kiddie comic book.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

"A" for School PR - Part Two

This started as a reply to some comments to Tennesse Jed's comment below and I got so riled up I decided to place it as a main item -- hope you can stomach some truth, Tennessee:

When was it, I wonder, that the so-called "right" to an education has now transmogrified into "all public school education must lead to employment" in a state with zero worker rights??
If that were true, then the average 22% of Tennesseans who possess a college degree should have their pick of astonishing jobs.
I guess we can remain assured of low-paying occupations, zero job protections, and bare benefits that companies can abandon with government protection when they go belly-up and 25 year employees can go suck dirt -- this is what we have as long as the this state's Dept. of Education is in charge.

The truth is, even the most minimal manufacturing jobs are writing off the Southeast since workers can't even follow picto-grams on the computer equipment.

I don't want to get off on a rant here, but the LAST thing the Hamblen Board of Education and their State toadies want is for the population to see a VALUE in simply being educated, as in creating a population capable of thinking for themselves.

Funding getting low? How about creating a brand new expense of multi-million dollar New Pre-School programs since the school boards can't manage the programs that currently exist?

A few years ago the Hamblen Board got state Awards for crafting a pro-literacy program available ONLY to homes with computer access!!! That was sheer genius for wasting money and computer skill. If Johnny can't read, he won't be surfing the Net looking for help!!!!

One Hamblen County Commissioner just published their 2005 Hamblen school calendar and could not get the word "Education" spelled correctly. Wonder how many school board members/real estate salesman bought ads in that calendar??

UPDATE -- The mistaken spelling has been sent back to the presses, and I'm sure they'll work VERY hard to destroy all evidence of their errors.

Tennessee has gushed tax dollars like a decapitated hemophiliac into the State Education dept with decades of constanly abysmal results and their only response is GIVE US MORE MONEY. How about chucking the pointless programs with proven failures, the Superintendents who earn more money than Bill Gates, and demanding some accountability from hypocritical school boards,
and the Endless Fundraising Congressman to actually provide students with the ability to reason, learn, adapt and invent??
Nawwwwwww, Joe, let's blame the County government who have raised school spending by the millions year after year after year. Don't blame the school leaders who won't hire needed teachers or allow public access to public documents.

Hear that Clue Phone ringing? The number you need to call is the Dept of Education and not the Hamblen County Commission. But that was the point wasn't it -- get you so confused you flail away at every shadow and the Dept of Education always appears as the Knight in Solid Gold Tax Armor.

JustThem Sunday 2 -- Now, It's Personal

The Theocracy R Us crowd continued their posturing claims of high moral ground with that ol' time religious zeal this past weekend in Nashville. Let me just offer up a few of those pesky comments from History that shows the difference between leadership and chest-thumping.

"It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have no virtues."
Abraham Lincoln

"The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."
George Washington at the signing of the Treaty of Tripoli, 1796

"If we have learned anything in the past quarter century, it is that we cannot federalize virtue."
President George Bush, 1991

"For why should my freedom be judged by another man's conscience?"
Paul, First Corinthians 10:29

Every TN Citizen Will Need New IDs

Only one newspaper, the Greeneville Sun, reveals what is in the future for every resident of the state of Tennessee. Here is the story from today's issue -

Every person living in Tennessee in the year 2008 will have to go into a state office and show proof of his or her citizenship as part of a new federal anti-terrorism mandate, Tennessee Commissioner of Safety Fred Phillips said Tuesday evening.
More than 5 million people will be affected by the new identity-checking, federally unfunded mandate that will apply to everyone residing within the state’s borders in 2008, Phillips said at a fund-raising dinner for the Greene County Democratic Party.
Speaking at the General Morgan Inn, Phillips described the logistics of the new federal law as being an unprecedented massive effort required of this state, but one that Tennessee officials, along with officials in the other states, must “somehow” comply with."

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

GOP Heads for The Big Bucks, No Whammy!

In a quickly prepared press release to the state's "newspapers," Republican leader Tre Hargett says he's abandoning his legislative duties for the cash offered by Pfizer.

Now even though the Legislator was, according to the KNS, only kind-of-sort-applying for work with them during the legislative session, he can't really remember what happened. The KNS story read:

"During this year's legislative session, one of the most hotly debated bills before that [prescription drug] panel was a measure setting the circumstances when one prescription drug may be substituted for a less expensive alternative. Drug companies were actively involved in lobbying the matter.
Pfizer representatives also hosted all Republican legislators at an Outback Steakhouse dinner during the last session.
Hargett said in an interview that he could not recall when he applied for the Pfizer position, though acknowledging that may have occurred while the legislative session was under way. He said he did not go through an interview for the job, however, until after the session.
"That's a logical question to ask. I have looked back and tried to think how I interacted with Pfizer during the session," said Hargett. "I feel very comfortable with that interaction."

The report goes on to add some nebulous 'clarifications
"Hargett said he recalled speaking with Bill Williams, a contract lobbyist for Pfizer, about the legislation, though not the details of that conversation. He said he supported the "generic substitution" portion, but had misgivings about the "therapeutic substitution" portion.
Williams said Pharma, an umbrella organization of pharmaceutical companies that hired a different lobbyist, took the lead role in lobbying the bill - strongly opposing the therapeutic substitution provision.
The version of the bill that ultimately passed included the "generic substitution" provision, but left the "therapeutic substitution" portion to be studied by a special committee.
Hargett said that as Republican leader he had "pushed for a vote" on legislation to stop lawmakers from becoming lobbyists without a year's wait."

Whew! Looks like he made the transition from Legislator to Lobbyist just in time!

Lately, there are so many FBI stings, waltzes and corruption scandals in Tennessee, how on earth can the average voter understand them without the 'spin' from newspapers and lobbysists?

An "A" for PR, But Failing in Facts

The latest scores for Tennessee high schoolers who take the ACT, which our state prefers over the SAT, has some notable acheivements --
More students than ever took the test.
State students scored higher in English than the national average.
The State Dept of Education said the results are encouraging because 5 percent more state students took the test this year than in 2004.

However, overall scores in math, reading and science show readiness for the requirements in college were below average.

How could this be? Why , in Hamblen County alone, the teachers were seeking adequate pay and benefits --- oh yeah, they were refused those increases by the Hamblen Board of Education which forced teachers into contract negotiations well into the school year.
The HBOE said they would hire extra teachers -- oh yeah, they put up new windows at HBOE offices.
This year, little children went to the Hamblen County Commission saying "just give up more money" (where the average household income is below $24,000) and the Director of Schools, Dr Dale Lynch went on TV to beg for free school supplies (his income is higher than the Governor of Tennessee.)
So why are there NO complaints voiced at School Board meetings, where they decide where every penny of the tens and tens of millions of dollars they receive are to be spent?
Oh yeah, comments from residents will only be heard AFTER the board conducts business.
What is the school slogan this year "Looking Good and Sounding Great"??
Yeah, kids, put that on your resumes and see if anyone hires you.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

I'm Taking Bets

How long before the Bush administration actually admits that Iraq is locked in a civil war? It's a partial win for us and allows us to put all the blame on "insurgents," "combatants", and the "struggling parliment." Someone should send W. a copy of T.E. Lawrence's "Seven Pillars of Wisdom." The last one-hundred years of history may be useful.

In the recent military involvement, the US and its allies have settled for geographic splits, walls, and lines of longitude and latitude in Germany, Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia-How-Many-Names now? and the constant rezoning of Africa.

Petroleum Love 2 and Hating Moms

As I read thru the ultra-rabid hystrionics that anyone, especially A Mom of a veteran, should speak her mind freely in American about the War in Iraq, I have to admit how similar this looks to America in the Vietnam days. However, rather than some idiot spitting and cursing at returning troops, now we have idiots spitting and cursing Cindy Sheehan for expressing her views against the war. Both Rabid Right and Rabid Left see her as some sort of one-size-fits-all tool.
But I was reminded to those old VietHate Days when I read this quote from the authors of the web log Six Meat Buffet -

So now we know that Cindy is a braindead sockpuppet for the Moore-ons of the left, parroting their tired anti-American, anti-Semitic cliches with the ferocity of Courtney Love at a crackhouse. Cindy has been given more than the benefit of the doubt and it’s nice to see that we can now push that courtesy out of the way and tell it like it is.
Cindy, do your family a favor and crawl back under your rock. Better yet, get a job. That way, when you threaten “not to pay your taxes”, that might actually mean something."

Now unless a writer/reporter has actually talked to Cindy as opposed to listening attentively to the Talk Show Hosts/Hatchet Artists whose jobs depend of the endless creations of the Two-Minute Hate, then their observations are hollow judgemental pleas for attention. Or you could just go spit on her. That was good enough for Nam wasn't it?

The Ignorance of the Media is eager to provide that Two-Minute Hate for yer Talk Shows, because the public would just be bored with Facts about the millions or is it billions in funding now that have gone unaccounted for in Iraq for the Years of the American "reconsturction". See just some of the details at this report --- or just keep spitting at anyone whose opinion is different from yours.

We Loves Us Some Petroleum

I love watching older movies, sometimes because they are so well made, some because I can see that cinematic medium struggling to find new ways to express artistic intent. And then there are the movies that are pure time capsules of America -- just look at those gasoline prices!!! Now, pay close attention here, cause ol' Doc Powell has a lesson fer ye.

I recently watched "Love Finds Andy Hardy" (1938) on Turner Classic Movies. I just happened to stop there while channel surfing as that wacky Andy was 'a gassin' up his car at the filling station. A place where several people were employed and they checked your oil levels, cleaned your windshields, checked your tire pressure -- and knew you by name. But what caught my eye was the price of a gallon of gas --23 cents.

When I was 9 years old, my dad sent me to the nearby gas station (where people still worked, and not as cashiers) with - no joke people - a gallon jug, telling me to get a gallon of gas for the lawnmower. The price - 25 cents. This was in the summer of 1968, so in THIRTY years, the price of gas had gone up two cents.

On Monday of last week, I stopped for gasoline at the self-serve, where the only jobs now are cashiers and the folks who come in and stock the drink coolers and microwave sandwiches. The price was $2.37 for regular unleaded. As of this Monday, the 15th, the lowest price I could find was $2.45. Some talking-news-head commented the price has jumped 20 cents in two weeks.

This is progress?? Why, I'd be tempted to think that America has some oil-rich family in the White House, who ..... oh yeah ..... I guess that's why the first job American troops had in "controling" Iraq was to secure oil fields and wait years to bother with getting electrical and water systems on line. I heard full-grown adults back in the 1970s howl they would never pay more than One Dollar for gas.

Just one more note from ole' Doc Powell. Rudolf Diesel, the man who invented the Diesel Engine, designed it to run on VEGETABLE oil. However, he was told by Rockefeller and other businessman this engine would never sell in America unless he converted it to petroleum fuel.
I think, folks, we have met the "Fuels" and they are Us. Like they say, a Fool and his money cling to petroleum like it was something from an all-loving teat.

More tidbits on gas prices can be read at Say Uncle, another proud member of the Rocky Top Brigade.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Are Your Politics Genetic?

A political scientist at Rice University, John Alford, has published a study which indicates your political thoughts and acts are the result of genetics.

So is it your simply your nature, or perhaps the ultimate evolution of your own DNA, to demand that public school abandon the scientific method and teach reglious-themed science with the ironic designation of "intelligent design"?

The full version of Alford's study can be found online at American Political Science Review

Much thanks to Rodeo Monkey for pointing this story out.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Congressman Jenkins UPDATE - Brings Money

This year for the first time, Congressman Jenkins, now in his 5th term in Congress, has said he will meet with the people he represents on a first come/first serve basis as long as they sign some paperwork and fill out some forms. The only real change to this process is that now you don't actually have to call in advance to schedule an appointment with YOUR REPRESENTATIVE when he actually does announce publicly he is in town. (Although he has met privately with many business friends and pals when they ask for time, but you can call his Hamblen Co. office every Thursday from 9 am till 11 am if YOU need to reach him.) (He does Fundraisers, too!!)

You know, his biography page on his website says he's "just a farmer" even though the only jobs he has had since the age of 25 have been in government. Now he does write on his web page that he OWNS a farm. Says he operates it too. But other than state and federal office, being a former TVA board member, Judge, staffer for Lamar Alexander, there aren't any other jobs listed.

He often issues press releases that all start the same way -- THE CONGRESSMAN ANNOUNCES A GRANT FOR (fill in name of your town or project). Most recently in Morristown, he announced a ONE MILLION DOLLAR Grant for a ROAD that leads to the local Morristown-Hamblen Hospital. You may remember the Hamblen County government just recently spent millions of YOUR TAXPAYER dollars for the hospital's debt just as the bank was about to foreclose on the hospital due to failure to keep up interest payments. All done very quickly after members of your local press decided to NOT report those financial failings for months and months. Funny, how it all was "such a surprise", even though members of the county government serve on various boards for the hospital. A million dollar road sure sounds purty, don't it? Maybe next we can get us a Cement Pond fer the back yard!!! Hoo, doogies!!

I wonder -- if someone wants to go to Lakeway Regional Hospital (which has actually been PAYING property taxes to the city and county) and which is ACROSS THE STREET from Morristown-Hamblen, will those drivers have to use a different road??