Saturday, August 27, 2005

American Idiots

When I interviewed Ann Coulter some years ago it was quickly clear the woman had zero interest in talking about anything she had said or written. The only thing she emphasized were sales. She wants money and loads of it. Who doesn't, right? But would you sacrifice Beliefs for Bucks? She could write a book called "Ninja Crop Circle Da Vinci Code Ghost Huntin' Time!!" and still make big sales and make the Talking Head Media Roundup and still puke up her idiotic theories. But then you'd know she was a smokin' monkey circus act instead of her Tom Cruise-crazy notions that she is serious.

By no means is she the only American Idiot (and God bless Green Day). They parade before the ravenous, blind staring eye of the camera and pretty soon it's hard to tell the Mullahs from the Profiteers without a programming guide - "get yer program!!! can't tell the clown from the bareback chuckleheads without a prrrrrrrrrrrrrrooooooooooooooogram!!"

A good mention is made here that we as a nation owe thanks to idiots like Coulter and Robertson.
Coulter urges terrorists to strike in the South, per her comments on the Aug 25th Hannity and Colmes" show "I think I'd rather have them trying to invade Mississippi or Georgia, Alabama, you know, the states where I want Cindy Sheehan's bus tour to go.")

No thanks, Idiot. The South has Idiots already like Fred Phelps and his God Hates America club to prove Idiots are as common as dirt. God doesn't Love anybody, says Fred as he protests the same things he's been protesting for 22 years. God Hates You, says Fred. All of You. Don't ignore these Idiots, please let's make note of them just as surely as you might want to note a landmine or a batch of botulism-filled chicken -- somebody will swallow it if it isn't plainly marked and some will swallow it anyway. Yes, he is headed to TN for some protests at military funerals -- and people need to be WARNED and not to just ignore him. HIs stick-figure buggering page is not one bit different from Coulter's claims and vile, black hatred -- they both love money and attention. But they love money most.

In short, sell any belief to any willing consumer as long as it turns a profit, and Truth can be damned.
It's enough to give smokin' monkey circus acts a bad reputation.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Camera Obscura/At The Movies

It was a movie that looked all to familiar, so I had just let it slide past. But then I started reading about it here and there. Seems there was some debate -- the critics blew it, they said, here is subversive genius. Another said it was like a fun 1970s Saturday morning cartoon. I decided to investigate. That's my job. I'm a film critic. Name's Powell -- Joe Powell.

The movie has a dismissive title, "D.E.B.S." and a poster of girls in school skirts and flashing guns. Yeah, been there, done that. But I had a free rental coupon. So I got it and threw it in the machine and just sat back. Gotta let art just wash over you. Don't judge -- just experience it.

The short version goes something like this -- it's a comedy about a college for female spies in training and the legendary girl spy known as Lucy Diamond is headed for the U.S. in a spy movie spoof, based on a short film by writer/director Angela Robinson.

The more accurate summation reads like this -- Imagine a comic strips which was the collaboration of Nabakov and Anias Nin published in Penthouse magazine, with some special technical advisors like John Woo and John Waters. Sort of grabs your attention. Also a great example of how the mainstream Hollywood movies have taken over the ideas and subversion of film makers like John Waters.

The basic story follows D.E.B.S. agent Amy Bradshaw (Sara Foster from "The Big Bounce") and her crew, which includes Dominique (Devon Aoki from "Sin CIty"), the chain smoker from France (a character who smokes on camera today is politically dangerous, after all), and they are hot on the tail -- er I mean trail -- of the legendary Lucy Diamond (Jordana Brewster, "The Faulty", "Fast and the Furious") who has made her way to the states. No one has ever survived an encounter with Lucy Diamond. Agent Amy's Homeland Security boy-toy (like i kept up with his name) is always around but Amy seems to be in search of something a little more .... female. Throw in some jokes straight out of the old "In Like Flint" days, when satire had political bite, some pop culture jokes -- calling the "Prom" at the D.E.B.S. Academy "Endgame" -- and the movie really takes you somewhere besides the typical.

How this got a PG-13 I'll never know, though some cut scenes on the DVD show a bit of editing when agent Amy Bradshaw and Lucy Diamond are discovered deep inside Lucy's Secret Lair shows how they did tone down the explicit sexual imagery. Turns out, it doesn't matter. This movie is ripe with subversiveness, capturing the ideas of both being in the System and out of it and why there is a conflict between the status quo and the independent American girl. Boy oh boy, salute for Independence!!!

The feature is an expansion of a short made by the director, who also did another short called "Chickula - The Teenage Vampire" and this year director Angela Robinson landed "Herbie Fully Loaded" with Lindsay Lohan (may have to give that a quick look-see after all, now that I see the M.O. at work here.) "D.E.B.S." deserves better than it got on first release -- and it will leave you all tingly.

The other movie mention for today is the nationwide release to theatres of director Terry Gilliam's latest "The Brothers Grimm" starring Matt Damon and Heath Ledger. Set in the world of the Napoleonic war, the folklore-collecting brothers are re-invented thru homages to Hammer Studios and looks more like "Jabberwocky" than say, "Brazil." Bottom line -- Gilliam is a master of cinema and always plays great on the big screen.

I gotta skip outta here -- look for me again, we have a lot left to talk about, kiddo.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Impact of Stories and Blogs

Below, on a post this week from Katherine, she told students an amazing story which she allowed me to share with you -- but the story grew today to utterly unexpected levels due to a reader's response and an entire family's history has changed. I am speechless.

Read "Do You Want To Hear Some Stories" first --

This is the result of sharing that information which is worthy of this separate post -
Katherine Powell writes -

I checked the Holocaust Memorial archives when I was there in '97, and I also checked Yad Vashem's database a few years ago and turned up nothing. After reading this comment, I checked Yad Vashem again, and found this:

Gisela Herz was born in Koeln, Germany in 1925 to Hermann and Ellen. She was single. Prior to WWII she lived in Koeln, Germany. During the war was in Koeln, Germany. Gisela died in Minsk, Belorussia. This information is based on a Page of Testimony submitted on 27/09/1999 by her researcher, a Shoah survivor.
How amazing to finally have some information. Thanks Joe for posting this story, and thanks anonymous for suggesting another search.

Just one more comment --- I must thank my brother David, who sent me the speech to begin with. He showed me a story that needed telling. Thanks, bro -- who knew??

TennCare Protestors Unmoved

Some excellent coverage here of the TEN-WEEKS of constant protest at the State Capitol over TennCare from Facing South. I happened to catch one conversation in a Morristown pharmacy that drug stores have lost hundreds and hundreds of normal daily prescriptions due to the changes, which is likely to end in job cuts to defray lost costs. Too easy to heap blame on Gov. Bredesen who has been the only state politician to even face the failure of the Legislature to provide oversight controls, or admit that former Gov. Sundquist poured money into the medical plan as well has padding pockets of his pals.

Somebody's Watching You

Hidden cameras, hidden agendas, and a real fight for getting the news right -- I have seen a real change in the way ET news coverage has been ramped up and a good example is the discovery of hidden cameras at a Knox. Co. school where cheerleaders were told to go change clothes. There are fascinating conflicts in the info between the coverage found on WATE-TV Channel 6 News and the newscast at WBIR-TV news. (They picked up the story from WATE after WBIR was inundated with phone calls.)

As a somewhat reformed news junkie, I have seen WATE's coverage really "covering" ET and a good example is a look today at the two websites. WATE is loaded upfront with lots of major news stories from our area while WBIR has opted for the warm-fuzzy, as if the chatty, feel-good approach is all the news fit to tell. I read news on 6 and 10 tells me former "Punky Brewster" star has baby.

Knox Blab also tells us that employees were told yet ANOTHER version of all the events, though by far the most thorough coverage is on WATE, no problem. Is it just me, or has WBIR always been the station for people who don't want news stories?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Stories -- UPDATE

I should mention as another fine reason to keep up with the folks at Berry College (see post from Wednesday) is their upcoming Southern Women Writer's Conference Sept 22-24. They boast another great line-up for their 6th event, including a performance by cajun/creole music by the Magnolia Sisters. Check out the web site.

Would You Like To Hear Some Stories?

I have the great honor today to hand over the writing to my sister in law Katherine Powell, who is director of the First-Year Experience Program at Berry College in Rome, GA. She made the following address to students beginning this term, and thankfully has allowed me to reprint them here. Take this as some proof of the quality of education available to a student in the South today, as well as a mark of her excellent storytelling and writing. Berry has a fascinating history, which is where this story begins:

Would you like to hear some stories? That’s the question that Martha Berry asked the mountain children that she found peering into her window on the day that we cite as the beginning of this institution. I think it’s interesting that she didn’t ask if they wanted to learn something or if they wanted to hear some scripture. She read them some Bible stories, among them Jonah and the Whale. And we’ve been telling stories here ever since.

You could argue that Berry’s success is largely due to Martha Berry and her predecessors’ ability to tell compelling stories about the work that was going on here and the great need that still existed. And because the students who came here went back and told their stories in their homes and communities and in the world.

When you came to college, you brought a lot of stuff; I know because I spent my morning lugging some of them up the stairs in the Ford buildings. Some of the most important things you carried with you are your stories. Stories that you’ve probably already begun to exchange about your family and where you’re from, what you’ve done and what you hope to do.

So I want to talk with you about stories. The ones you bring with you, the ones you will encounter here, and the ones that you’ll be creating while you are at Berry.

The best stories are complex. The very best stories are those, like Jonah and the Whale, or the history of Berry College that seem simple on the surface and reveal their complexities the more you look at them. One of the things that you may find happening to you at Berry, is that some of the simple stories you brought here with you become complicated as you gain more knowledge and perspective and insight.

Let me illustrate that point with a story. My mother is a master teller of a particular kind of tale: I don’t know its formal title, but its purpose is to terrify small children so that they will behave themselves. One that I remember was told to me on a family outing to the zoo, when I was about six, and I kept trying to reach into the cages and touch the animals. My mother warned me against such behavior by telling me about her cousin, Gisele, who put her hand into the monkey cage at the zoo and got bitten by a monkey. This was an interesting anecdote, but I was equally interested to learn that my mother had a cousin Gisele, because I had never met, never even heard of her before. I asked my mother why, and she told me, “Because Gisele died.”

My mother never said that the cause of death was monkey bite. I’m sure she didn’t mean to imply that. But that's the simple narrative my six-year-old mind imposed on the facts. I kept my hands in my pockets for the rest of the day. I didn’t think much about Gisela after that, but I carried that version of her story with me into my twenties, when I finally added what I knew about my family history to what I knew about Gisela, and I understood, she didn’t die of a monkey bite. In fact, I’ve since learned, no one knows how or where or even if she died. The last thing we know about Gisele is that she resided for a while at Theresienstadt, a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia that was for most of the people who passed through there, the last stop before the Auschwitz.

I said the best stories are complex, but it’s not always easy to live with complexity. A cautionary tale about a girl who got bitten by a monkey is a lot easier to live with than a complicated narrative about a girl who disappeared in the crucible of World War II and whose fate will probably never be known. But just because you carry a story around in your head for years and years, doesn’t mean it’s right. And I’d rather have the complex story because even with its incomplete ending, it tells the truth. We like simple stories because they are easy to understand and their lessons are clear and easy to follow. Complex stories make us work to discover their meanings, if there are any, and their implications for our own lives can make us uncomfortable.

Here’s a simple story—Jews are the cause of all our trouble. We must get rid of them. Here’s another simple story—Nazi Germany was an anomaly in history; nothing like that could ever happen here. Here’s a complicated story, one of Martha Berry’s greatest benefactors was Henry Ford. He built the beautiful Ford complex, including the dormitories where some of you are now living. He shared Martha Berry’s belief in the nobility of hard work and he supported it with his dollars and his name. He also believed in an international Jewish conspiracy bent on world domination. In the 1920’s, at the same time that he and Martha Berry were exchanging letters about architectural plans for the Ford buildings, he was also publishing his anti-Semitic views in a series of 91 articles in the Dearborn Independent newspaper. They were widely read and later collected in a book called The International Jew that you can still find circulated and defended as truth on the Internet. Among Ford’s readers and admirers was Adolf Hitler, who in 1938 presented Ford with the Grand Service Cross of the Supreme Order of the German Eagle. This is the same Henry Ford who changed the country by manufacturing cars that ordinary people could afford to buy. This is the same man who gave a fortune so that rural children around Rome, GA, and African-American children in both Alabama and Georgia could receive an education. The very same man. Nothing is simple, is it?

One of the most important things that higher education can do is train you to recognize and make sense of the complex realities of every simple story. The two stories I've told you today are too complicated to extrapolate some obvious theme or easy lesson, but in some ways, they are both still cautionary tales. They remind us of what happens when individuals and nations accept simple stories to explain complicated problems. They're tales about what happens when we don't listen to other people's stories, when we refuse to acknowledge the web of stories that binds us together, when we fail to consider our stories from any perspective but our own.

So I hope you've come to Berry expecting us to complcate your lives. It'll happen in the classroom for sure, but some of your most complex challenges will come outside of the classroom.

For example, the simple narrative you’ve been imagining in which you become lifelong best friends with your college roommate may be complicated by the fact that while you like your roommate very much, you find his or her living habits . . . disgusting. The story you’ve been writing for your future life as a doctor or accountant or teacher may be complicated by the discovery that you actually hate Biology or Numbers or children. Those discoveries can be painful, and it’s painful too to have an idea that you’ve always held to be true bump into somebody else's equally sacred but opposite truth. But just as there are benefits that come from working your way through an intricate calculus problem or seriously engaging with a difficult work of literature, struggling to resolve rather than gloss over or run from the complexities of your own life will leave you stronger and wiser and better prepared to face the next complication that is sure to arise.

And the good news is, that you don’t have to do it all alone. Some of the best resources on campus are right here today: your first-year and transfer mentors. They know a lot about Berry and have already worked through some of the challenges you’ll face, and they are committed to helping you succeed, and so are your academic advisors. Your professors not only understand the complexities of their disciplines, they'd love to talk about them with you and help you to sort your way through them. And there are many other people and offices to assist you, including the Office of First-Year Experience. My door is open to you anytime you need some assistance or just have a story to tell, and I know that Dean Bumpus’ is as well.

One reason that Gisele’s story so hard to carry around, for me, is that there is no ending. Was she murdered at Auschwitz? Did she die of disease or starvation? Did she survive the war? She would have turned 80 this year, just like my mother. Might she still be living, somewhere, not knowing that anyone even remembers her name? Although we have searched for information, I don’t think I will ever be able to end her story, but I can try to make sure it isn’t forgotten, which is one reason I’ve told it to you.

That’s another function that stories serve. They connect us to the past and they connect us to each other. The stories we choose to tell about ourselves, about our homes, our families, our adventures allow us to find common ground, and to see past religion or race, gender, sexual orientation or a slew of other surface differences that separate us. At the same time, because we are different, in significant ways, stories also let us see the world from someone else’s perspective and maybe be a little more humble, a little less certain of the rightness of our position.

I look forward to hearing your stories in the days and years ahead, and I if I can assist you at all as you set about creating what I hope will be complex and rich narratives about your time at Berry, I hope you will call on me."

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


I sit at my computer and I can watch Martian movies, real ones, filmed on location by the first robotic astronauts, mechanical twins roving the desolate reddish landscape for the last year and a half. NASA revealed these images in a short film of just a few seconds, in black and white, robotic cinema verite. I'm pecking at this keyboard on this computer and some 45 million miles away -- Mars will be getting a bit closer these next few months -- and many will mark how this other planet, smaller than the one I call home, takes a slow circular dance around the Sun.

There are no people to see in the short movie, no mulit-limbed invasion squads. The camera filmed in some 12 minutes this passing of "dust devils" across the rocky expanse of Mars which I have sat and watched for maybe a half an hour. It is odd, really, here at this far technological beginning point, this moment and place where I can see what a camera on a remote control cart sees. How long, I wonder, will we Earth-folk take to build and then send other robots to Mars or beyond? In a hundred years, will some other inhabitant of this valley in eastern Tennessee watch robots taking clunky steps to build some empty metal shells that might house fuel or food or other robots? Will it take fifty years or maybe two hundred and fifty?

There have been recent discussions here on this planet about Science and Space and what Science is or should be. Some theories put forth that millions of years ticked past here on this world -- hundreds of millions -- and lifeforms bubbled and swam and clumped together, thanks to the water and the dirt and the air and the fire, and caught hold and started growing. Some theories put forth that a Creator, a Prime Force, made all there is on this planet in six days and rested on the seventh day from that labor. And not only what is on this planet, but everything out in this solar system and beyond it, millions and millions of other galaxies made of planets with fire and ice and gas and shattered meteor bits, and all in six days. It has taken a very very short span of some forty years, 1965 to 2005, for the inhabitants here to begin accept the ideas that inhabitants of other colors or gender might all have the same basic freedoms, another beginning point that is still revolutionary in terms of how we live with each other.

And here I sit, staring at the 17 second movie of dusty twists of wind, ragged white whips that lash back and forth across a desolate world.

Some even more primitive robots have, in less than 30 years, been shot out into the inky blackness which surrounds us, and other planets are photographed -- planets that are thick with heat and pressure, enormous swirling clouds of gas and storms that bring acids and liquid metals in a hazy sheet across a surface whose contents I can barely imagine or conceive. The robot cameras explode or dissolve into nothingness long before they can attain anything even remotely considered a "landing"..

I ponder the Martian landscapes and wonder about it's design -- why create such a place? What purpose does it hold? Were the robotic twins on the scene too soon or too late to catch a sight of intelligent, conscious creatures?

Why make a world of dust? Of ice? 

Perhaps those winds are scattering particles of sand as part of a ten billion year planet renovation plan, and if so I doubt anything left in this valley on my home planet will know about it, even if I wish or hope that someone will be here to see a transformed world.

The Martian world today has little robots staring intently at rocks and dust devils, and people here, too, see it -- observing the location. I seem to understand so little of stars and atoms, I don't understand why the inhabitants here are so contentious and vile, or loving and compassionate in the face of such an enormous collection of galaxies filled with random winds and rotations. I am surprised we have not all stayed hidden in caves, full of fear from moment to moment, like we see it in the beginning of Stanley Kubrick's movie of space travel, "2001: A Space Odyssey". 

But what always excited me watching that movie was that slow, rhythmic rolling dance of men and machines and planets all moving to the Blue Danube Waltz, and how thrilled I was just to see it, to observe this quiet emptiness of space and stars and galaxies whose movements I cannot comprehend. And at the end of "2001" (a title whose name once resonated with an implausible future and now is just part of our past), at the end of the movie the astronaut has been moved from the caves to the stars and Kubrick leaves me to make up my own mind about what I have seen, what it all might mean.

My niece told me some years ago she fell asleep when she watched the movie it was so boring to her. I could hardly believe it. How could anyone watch those images and not feel some kind of un-nameable connection. some sense of endless wonder, some urge to search among the stars?

Filming geologic time will not bring box office dollars.

Mars has been in our books and our imaginations for thousands of years. Once on a Halloween night it escaped from the radio and terrified thousands of radio listeners, and Mars landed on top of actor Tom Cruise this summer. TV gave us "My Favorite Martian", and in ancient days it was the home of Gods and myths barely remembered, and today I sit and watch the dust devils filmed on location, on Mars, with no laugh tracks, no panic in the streets.

Maybe the best way to think of it is as development property -- a slow development, true. But I can almost see it all as part of the view of Our backyard. I have to use my imagination, to consider time and distance and what Life requires or how Life must adapt. I have to be willing to consider so many theories, and if I dismiss the possibilities, then I limit my view and I might as well stay in the caves.

Monday, August 22, 2005

All U.S. Citizens Must Have National I.D.

Last week I reported to you about the brand new National I.D. cards which few of us knew Congress approved in early May of this year. Tennessee Dept. of Safety Commissioner Fred Phillips spoke about it in Greeneville recently and kudos to the Greeneville Sun newspaper for reporting this story. Also thanks goes to the State Dept. of Safety who quickly replied to my requests to gain more info on this story.

What will your new National I.D. Card mean?

The Real Identity Act was added on quietly to a bill for Tsunami Relief and War Budget increases, and without an I.D., you will face serious restrictions as a citizen of the United States. The Real I.D. Act states these identity cards will be required not only if one wants to drive, but also if you wish to visit a federal government building, collect Social Security, access a federal government service, or use the services of a private entity, such as a bank or an airline. Every state must have this new data and Congress also told states to figure out their own way to pay for the new programs, whose costs will easily be in the huundreds of millions.

There is a fine article at Find Law here by Anita Ramasastry. She is a professor at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle and director of the Shidler Center for Law, Commerce and Technology. The nation's governors are only one of many groups who voice complaints about the program.

First District Congressman Bill Jenkins voted Yes on this bill, and only two members of the TN delegation voted No -- Congressmen John Duncan and Bart Gordon. On the bill which could have provided for budget dollars to the states, First District Congressman Bill Jenkins voted No, let the states pay for it. Other no votes came from Congressmen Duncan, Wamp, and Blackburn, while the rest of TN's congressmen voted Yes, to provide federal dollars. Now each state is responsible for this new unprecedented change to life in America.

By placing this bill inside the bill for supplement funding for victims of the January Tsunami in Asia and more money for the Iraqi war, members of Congress gave themselves places to hide and plead "but there were good things in this bill." Senators Alexander and Frist both voted for the new I.D.s and against providing budget monies to the states.


One of the touchstones and designers of the digital age, living and working near here in Asheville, N.C. died on Sunday. For many years, his name was known by all musicians and music lovers, and as the technologies quickly expanded, his name, too, got mixed in with all the other ones and zeros of digital information.

Robert Moog added so much, changing rock music and classical and providing the tech that is at the basis of hip-hop. Most people gained their first grasp of the meaning of "synthesis" thanks to his "synthesizer".

He spent the early 1990s as a research professor of music at the University of North Carolina at Asheville before turning full-time to running his new instrument business, which was renamed Moog Music in 2002. Recent customers includes Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam, Beck, Phish, Sonic Youth and Widespread Panic.

A public memorial is scheduled for Wednesday in Asheville.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Front Page News

Here, Dear Readers, here is your honest-to-Pete chance to learn much about my personal life, which I tend to guard with fierce intent. This is something I’m learning to do as a writer and as a living creature.

It was almost 14 years ago exactly, Aug 29th, 1991, when I first met the woman who is the topic of the following interview. Reenie Mooney – though I still like calling her Maureen -- has just returned to the Volunteer State as of Aug. 20th, and she said her return was Front Page news and an Interview was in order.

I’ll have to edge open this door on myself a wee bit to explain. Within a matter of weeks after I met her, I moved in with her at her parents’ home. Anyone who knows me will tell you I was a Fool for Love. I had never ever met a woman who could quote Bob Dylan lyrics, cuddle next to me watching “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer”, or “Ren and Stimpy” (“yummm, my coffee … God bless you, Stimpy.”) and argue any topic with anyone, anytime with such Fearlessness.

Her folks, Ed and Geri Mooney adopted me with familial warmth that still astonishes me. I eventually met her brother Tim, who is a masterful painter and understands H.P. Lovecraft, her sister Kelly, who is master Production Chief, she of the many cell phones who loves Elvis like a Tennessee native (and her hubby Mike has the wit to keep up), and her brother Jim, who is a guitar god and a loving father himself and who introduced me to the music of Wes Montgomery. Such a talented family – and so all-embracing of a stray old dog like me, who probably deserves nothing. I could talk to Ed and Geri as if we were old schoolmates. Geri died at the end of April and I still cry about it. I still have her email address in my account – can’t delete it just yet.

I took Maureen – Reenie – to a few of my family’s holiday events, and I never, ever introduced anyone I ever dated in my life to anyone in my family before. I guess what happened was this – she saw something in me that I still can’t see well myself, and I see things in her eyes that I could never find the words to express or explain, even to me. It is tender and tough and clumsy and graceful and has such laughter and sadness … and I never gave a shit if anyone else ever saw what I did or not.

I admit, it took a few years for me to be able to figure out just how to talk to her after we broke up.
I missed my friend, I guess, and was too scared to ask if my friend was still there somewhere, too scared to find out if that whatever-it-was she saw was still something visible to anyone. But what amazes me even more is that 14 years later she not only is willing to talk to me, she asks me to Interview her and help Welcome her back to Tennessee.

The following Interview occurred in the wee hours of the morning and is slightly edited. I always liked her choice of words. One of her online names is used below, which I eventually shortened to just the letter S. She also took much time to tell me how to build my web log. Please enjoy today’s Front Page News.

SQUISHY: The Joe Powell Interview with Reenie Mooney... A Web Exclusive – (I'll PhotoShop my face onto Jen Aniston's body from the VF cover)

Joe Powell: Okay then I suppose if it’s an interview, I’ll need questions.

S: You can do an IM interview, and then save the IM. You're the reporter. I'm the talent. Sheesh!

JP: Right. Good point. I'll need a drink.

S: I'll need one too... getting negra modelo... [Editor’s Note: I have no idea what that is, but I am not about to ask. This interview is gonna be tough anyway.]

JP: Pinot Grigio, just opened it.... strictly research tools.

S: Of course... I'm ready when you are Mr. Powell.

JP: Ah, christ ... is this thing even working? Er, ah, ahem ... are you... ah ...traveling cross-country, you said? Right, right…only way to do it. Purpose of transcontinental expedition?
I knew this thing wasn't on … test dammit, test!!!!!!!!

S: Wait... phone call …[Time passes – The Ed.] Had to talk to the always fabulous Devon Rowland. OK... first question...

JP: Purpose of transcontinental expedition?

S: Ever since my mother passed away in April, Dad has been struggling to keep it together. Over the past few years, Mom had sort of been training Dad how to take care of everything that she took care of, but I think it's a daunting task for him. And I just think he needs someone around the house to keep his spirits up. He's in relatively good health, but I know that often times men go fairly quickly after their wives die.
I want to be there for Dad. On the other front, although I have (well, had) a good job, my financial situation is pretty sketchy with all my debt from school and other bills I'm trying to pay off. The cost of living here in Hollywood is outrageous. My 2 Bedroom apartment costs $1400 a month!

JP: Almost 4 times what I pay -- then again, I'm back to earning about [DELETED] dollars a week. [Ed. Note – for the record I am living on unemployment and savoring all this time off to write, but I ain’t telling how little I actually make this summer]

S: I'm keeping my head above water, but just barely. So moving back to Tennessee represents a chance for me to get my finances in order. My father's mortgage on a 4-bedroom house in less than [DELETED dollars amount] of what I pay in rent.(You will do a grammar/spelling/sloppy typing edit on this, yes?)

JP: Ah, god, fonts ...sure, my secretary ... the transcription ...yes yes yes.

S: I think it will give us both a chance to help each other out. It's funny, because Dad and I haven't always had the best relationship. I just want to see him do OK in these years without Mom. And he wants to makes sure his little girl does all right in life. Pass the peace pipe, pass the Kleenex. Reason #3. I MISS THE HELL OUT OF TENNESSEE!!! I miss trees and green and weather and people uglier and fatter than me.

JP: All things that are here, yes.

S: I miss my dear, dear friends. I miss getting from point A to point B in a relatively manageable amount of time. I miss the music. I miss the vicious culture. I
miss having something to be pissed about. I miss standing out in a crowd, but feeling like I fit right in all the same.So there's the reasons for the journey. They will be chronicled on my new blog, The Tennessee Waltz.

JP: That’s pretty funny, really -- ah, you don't know do you? About the federal sting operations involving state legislators taking cash bribes called The TN Waltz? There’s already a web site to chronicle the events, paid for by the local GOP.

S: Really. I've always felt that people ought to bribe me.

JP: They caught these chuckleheads taking like 300 bucks and 1000 bucks!

S: It's called a paycheck.

JP: Nope, not me. As a legislator, I'd charge 100,000 - 300,000 minimum for my influence!

S: Politics is an ugly mistress, with a very [Expletive deleted].

JP: That must be why I'm so attracted to politics. And I think it may be illegal to even say the word [Expletive deleted] in TN. I'll have to edit that one out!

S: [Same Expletive used 34 times. I counted – Ed.] Arrest me. Can't help maself! Plus [Expletive deleted] is such a fecund word... love that word...ASK A QUESTION BEFORE I GET MYSELF ARRESTED!!!

JP: Okay – You moved from NY to TN to CA to TN to CA and TN holds the attractions and opportunities for a bright, college educated, media-savvy mover and shaker like you? Just today I'm reading in the USA today about that “Rock Star:INXS” show you worked with and how Mark Burnett's star is perhaps waning, so TN holds the opportunities you seek??

S: Ok, first it's... [taking a breath] from NY to AZ to TN to San Diego to TN to L.A. to TN.

JP: Details.

S: Lot more miles in there than you give me credit for.

JP: True.

S: I'm gosh darned worldly!

JP: I loved Arizona – it was hot as Hell's pitchforks.

S: Actually, I'm looking to hopefully work a HGTV or UT. The bizz is the bizz, no matter how you slice it. My sister's out here producing Quilt Making and Knitting shows

JP: I'd eat a pistol doing quilt TV.

S: I am (was) the Editor for a 66 year-old Hollywood newsletter that went out daily to the major industry types in the bizz, and made about 1/3 of what she makes a year. (I must mention that I was terribly underpaid for the job specification, but I was compensated by calling my shots and making my hours work for me... low stress in a high stress industry is a blessed rarity around here)

JP: Next question. Let's say its 5 years from now -- what are you doing in TN?

S: Dancing at Bambis... (kidding) nickels and dimes won't keep a roof over my head. Hopefully I'm gainfully employed at HGTV or maybe even get some work teaching English at a community college. I'm also writing. Done celebrating the publishing of my first novel and well into work on my second book of poetry.

[Ed. Note – I am such a doofus – I didn’t ask her for the actual titles, so will have to post them as soon as I ask her.]

S: Maybe I've got a band together: Reenie and Her Swinging Jugs Band -- (side note: my lovely, gorgeous little half Korean neighbor just brought me a chocolate cupcake... gonna miss Kim's sweets...)

JP: Some people have repeatedly told me I will never find the level of “success I deserve" working and writing and performing in TN -- so success can be found here?

S: Depends on what you consider success.

JP: You must tell me the definition, then.

S: By Tennessee standards, I'm VERY successful. By MY standards, I'm wallowing in LaLa Land. (mmm, cupcake …Kim put sour cream in the cupcakes... mmmm....)

JP: Woof! - sounds tasty.

S: Success is what makes YOU happy, not what others judge is supposed to make you happy. I'm happy on a porch swing playing my guitar during a lightning storm. I'm not low-browing my sites, but I don't like playing the Hollywood game.Never had. I would have never believed you if you had said in 1997, "In 3 years, you will be dealing with the comings and goings of celebrities all day Not to say I haven't had a good tome to one degree or another. I've met some great people in my working career. I have fantastic, loving friends who I will miss terribly, but this town isn't big enough for the both of us.

JP: I'd bet cash money the games are just as mean here as anywhere else -- meaning celebrity and politics are all Local (A) and (B) would ya say that George Bailey and his angel, Clarence, were right, that no one is poor who has friends?

S: Oh, everyone who has any amount of celebrity clings to it like the last string keeping them out of hell. But I think EVERYONE who has celebrity is of no more importance than the other guy. I'm not impressed by fame. The quote at the bottom of my emails sent from my office was John Updike, "Fame is a mask that eats the face." There was and is no question how I feel about the "game" being played out here. Cinema may be the opiate of the masses, but everything else is track marks and used needles to me. (damn this cupcake is good...)

JP: Making me want one.

S: Ok. So, B) -- Friends. Friends is all ya got. Friends is family. My friends are my family just as much as anyone who shares my DNA. They are absolutely and positively the same thing to me. I love my friends, and they continually show me how well I'm loved. I'm a billionaire as far as friends go. I own the world!
I think it takes going away to appreciate it, although I did know what I was leaving behind when I moved to Los Angeles. On the other hand, I think there are plenty of folks that could use a little travel to see what could be improved in Tennessee. Thai delivery! It should be required in all cities!

[Ed Note -- There is some discussion here on friends and family which are too personal, plus I got lost in quoting a bunch of Melville’s “Moby Dick” for his philosophies, which I must eliminate for just not being very exciting copy -- with the exception of the following sentences, just because I love the way they sound: “"There is all the difference in the world between paying and being paid. The act of paying is perhaps the most uncomfortable affliction that the two orchard thieves inflicted on us.”]

S: Been reading “Moby Dick” again?

JP: Okay ... too much philosophy.... (Put... the Melville.... down)


JP:A question.
S: 'bout time.

JP: If you could offer Tennesseans 3 pieces of advice -- what would they be??

S: Grow without growing.
Change without changing.
Embrace without suffocating the embraced.

JP: If you could Change 3 things about TN, what would they be?

S: Make it the "blue' state it ought to be.
Get a State income tax and do away with the crazy sales tax on food.
Thai delivery 24/7.

JP: You said this return was Front Page news - Why?

S: Because it's the return of ME! How you all got along without me for 6 years... well... it's just crazy. Someone needs to be there to keep you all on your toes.

JP: Okay – what Three things does TN have to look forward to when you arrive?

S: Parties will be more fun.
My famous homemade salsa.
A loud voice that carries over the din.