Sunday, December 31, 2006

Times Square Cam and The Top 25 Cams of 2006

Watch the gathering crowds and keep your eyes on a 16 live web cams in Times Square and around the nation via the EarthCam website.

And, they also have released their top 25 web cams of 2006. I like the monkey cam the best myself, but there are also roaches, tigers and Key West too. Although it looks like all their links are redirecting you to the Times Square page at least until tomorrow.

But who know? Maybe their will be monkeys in Times Square!

A Protest Against The Year 2007

A group has organized in France to protest 2007. They don't want it - no new year, no more years period, and ultimately an end to Time itself.

The group calls itself Fonacon and declared:

The members of the anti-New Year front, including several otherwise conventional local businessmen and women, dressed up in hoods and masks.

"It is about time that the passage of time ended," said one of the hooded organisers. "We are fed up with getting older. Why should we follow the fashion? The planet is getting older and warmer. Not us. Stop this mad race towards death."

Certainly seems to be a growing problem and resentment with any and all holiday observances, with what they are called and why and how they are observed. I suppose it was inevitable that once there was a "War on Christmas", then why not a War on Time?

Time is an issue for us all, yes. Various cultures say we are on the edge of the year 2007, others say Jan. 1, 2007 is actually Tevet the 11th, 5767 and some say we are currently in the year 4704.

Time could be stopped - but then what do we do? Einstein seems right in saying that the reason we have time is so that everything doesn't happen at once - though I must admit that the more I have traveled through Time, the more it does seem to all happen at once anyway. And I've read enough science-fiction to know that stopping Time usually brings bad results. I mean, somewhere there is an official Atomic Clock and if Time stopped, then I suppose everything would go boom.

I've heard it said that someone is "living in the past" or "living for today", so perception seems to be the key to time. At least that's the way I see it.

One of the most ominous phrases I have ever heard is "There is no Time like the present." That just gives me the creeps.

Perhaps Groucho Marx said it best - "Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana."

Friday, December 29, 2006

Camera Obscura - Best Movies of 2006

Before I offer up a list of the best from this year and the disclaimers which go with my selections, there are a few noteworthy movie news items to provide.

I was most happy to see what the first images of comic book legend Silver Surfer will look like in the second Fantastic Four movie out in 2007. He isn't all CGI - actor Doug Jones performs in a body suit which will get some CGI touch-ups and as fan, I am impressed. Here's to hoping they also do a good job creating the Surfer's boss, Galactus. More about the photo and the movie can be found here. And the first trailers are being shown with "Night At The Museum.

On Thursday, 25 more movies were added to the National Registry of Film for preservation and the list covers a wide range of films, as always. Some of the list includes:
Blazing Saddles
Groundhog Day

The complete list is here.

One of the best things about this year in movies was the stellar and influential collection of films from the Janus Collection. Not only did we get an massive boxed-set of DVDs and extras of the best from the Janus, many cities are hosting mini-festivals to allow folks to once again see these classics in a movie theatre. The Nashville Scene has the info about the festival playing in January 2007 at the Belcourt.

Among my favorites being offered are Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai" and "The Hidden Fortress, a major influence on Li'l George Lucas, who borrowed much for his "Star Wars" tale -- instead of two robots, the story follows a tall and skinny and short and squat pair of peasants who stumble into a struggle between empires, aiding a heroic samurai charged with protecting an endangered princess. There is one astonishing and very funny scene of the two peasants caught on a massive staircase on a mountainside as thousands either flee or attack in a massive jail break.

Some others in the Janus Festival include "400 Blows", "La Strada", "Gimmie Shelter" and "Walkabout." And seeing these movies in a theatre is sheer bliss.

One of the best columns on the Best of 2006 is from The DVD Savant, whose list is properly titled The Most Impressive DVDs of 2006. His picks are perfection. Just go read it.

DISCLAIMER: My selections of favorites from 2006 are a blend of both new theatrical releases and releases from earlier years which became a regular part of my home viewing habits. There are several films from 2006 I haven't seen yet. And, naturally, the following represents something of my taste for obscurity. Some of these selections are .... aw, hell. I'll explain as I go.

Favorite Movies in No Particular Order:

"V For Vendetta" -- I avoided watching this in the theatres, as I am a massive fan of the Alan Moore graphic novel, so why ruin my memory with a bad movie? I finally caved and watched it this year and was most impressed with how the film kept the language and even the comic-panel style of imagery. Subversive and cautionary and very much a movie of it's time - plus a fantastic performance by Hugo Weaving from behind the mask.

"Grizzly Man" - Werner Herzog once again paints a picture of a madman and a doomed soul. Really more of a found artifact of the videotaped journal of Timothy Treadwell. Impossible to not be absorbed by Herzog's narrative.

"The Proposition" - Yes, a movie from this year makes the list!! Former rocker Nick Cave's script drops you immediately into a harrowing Outback western saga, and makes both a lyrical and ugly story. Add in the haunting musical score and the haunted faces and lives of the characters and this movie is a minor masterpiece.

Satisfying Sequels/Remakes: Two sequels, both hyped to death and big at the box office, actually impressed me this year - "X-Men 3" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest". The only drawbacks to X-3 was the poor Beast performance and Angel, who was lost in all the character threads. In Dead Man's Chest - my favorite performance of the year was from Bill Nighy as Davy Jones, who steals the screen whenever he appears. A remake I thought would be terrible was instead both careful to preserve the intent of the original and to enhance it as well -- "The Hills Have Eyes". The movie is about what it takes to turn a pacifist into a fighter and about the distorted creatures who make that pacifist transform. Just a brilliant remake.

"Pulse" -- No, not the remake from this year, which sucked, but the original 2001 Japanese version finally made available this year in the U.S. Relying on mood and shadow, it created an intense sense of dread for me. I was jumping at shadows for days. Not for every taste, I know, but for me it worked in spades as I watched the characters slip into despair, fear and then disappear into nothingness.

"Slither" - Part homage to horror films of the 1980s and the 1950s, plus part mindless escapism, I watched it several times, laughing often. Add in the hilarious and numerous DVD extras and this was some of the most fun I had with a film all year. Seek it out.

My Favorite of the Year:

This movie came out in 2004, but it was the one most often in my DVD player this year. It is a great comedy, has a fantastic musical score, is loaded with action scenes and has a romance story stuck in as well. The writer, director and star of the movie expertly crafted each frame and every performance is dead-on perfect. It's a kung-fu extravaganza, a Chuck Jones cartoon, and the supporting characters are famous for their previous roles in movies - from Bruce Lee's stunt double to one of the Japanese girls chasing Bond in "Man With A Golden Gun". The movie makes my obscure heart rumble with admiration every time I see it. If you haven't ever seen it, I highly recommend you take the time to watch it. Highest ratings for "Kung Fu Hustle".

Now I know this list is odd, eclectic and may not make much sense to you. That is why it's my list and not yours. Feel free to add your favorites in the comments - or just deride me for mine.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

"Blog Wars" Tonight

Pertinent and/or impertinent, those millions of people who take to the internet with a keyboard and become bloggers have been changing both political and personal realities for several years. 2006 especially was their year of political activism.

Tonight a documentary from Sundance and the BBC titled "Blog Wars" will air, telling the political story of how blogging and bloggers have forever altered the media landscape. Starting with the crafty use of the internet by Howard Dean in 2004 and focusing on the Lamont and Lieberman campaign, the documentary attempts to tell a rather complex story.

Info on the documentary is here at the Sundance website. A short mention and clip was made last week at Crooks and Liars.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Details in PS3 Shooting Continue to Emerge

It's likely that items in this post will offend some people. Good. This should disturb most of us.

I've been following the surreal and violent events from North Carolina about the shooting death of 18-year-old Peyton Strickland, gunned down by police in their "investigation" of the theft of two PlayStation 3's. Some previous posts are here and here.

Certainly more tounges are wagging about another news story in North Carolina, the one involving the Duke Lacrosse Team. The story has been getting great ratings.

But let's be honest - all the speculating and pontificating on that case is pretty much a standard story in American athletics. The majority of athletes do not always make the news for drunken, drug-fueled, sexual assaults. However, enough of them do so that we might as well include arrest and conviction records along with the stats kept on the players of pretty much every sport. If anything, the events concerning what happened at Duke should inform most of us that the term "sport" is equitable with the term "justice." It's a game where the win is determined by the abilities of the legal "players" and not by notions of Justice.

The killing of Peyton Strickland does bother me though.

Let's say for argument's sake that the teen was guilty of beating someone up and stealing their PS3. What followed that crime is lunacy. And what the Hanover County Sheriff's office did over the last week to raise money for the now-fired deputy who did the shooting -- raffle off a PlayStation 3 - is a clear indication of these officers sneering at the death of Strickland.

The only reason the raffle was halted - changed to a Plasma TV - was because the public and the media learned of it.

Troubling too are the overwhelming paramilitary tactics waged on a teen who essentially stole a toy.

16 officers, including a 10-person SWAT team, surrounded the teen's home. And as I've said before, paramilitary tactics and weapons are far too common in every town in America. A study from the CATO Institute this summer noted that in the last 25 years, there has been a 1,300 percent increase in the number of such raids on American homes. Standards and training, however, are barely existent, according to Peter Kraska, criminal justice professor at Eastern Kentucky University and author of two other nationwide studies of SWAT teams deployment and tatics:

There's absolutely no standards or national accreditation or anything a department has to do to establish a tactical team," Kraska said. "So many people have the misconception that because there's a SWAT team, its members are competent and highly trained ... and it's just not the case."

North Carolina, like most states, doesn't set statewide standards for tactical training, leaving that up to individual agencies, Kraska said."

A Grand Jury, which "mistakenly" marked the wrong box and found deputy Christopher Long guilty of second degree murder, and then the next day said, "whoops! we meant not guilty", has also revealed some highly questionable testimony --

As reported by the Greensboro News-Record, here's what was supposed to happen: Long was standing next to an officer at the door who had the battering ram, he would then go inside first and the other 15 officers would follow while a search was conducted. (And yeah, a battering ram? That may be the norm when raiding a home of suspected drug-dealers or in hostage situations, but for the theft of a toy??)

Long's statements to investigators was that when he heard the sound of the battering ram, he thought someone inside the apartment was shooting. Even though he was standing right beside the battering ram. He immediately shot through the door - blindly, not knowing who was on the other side.

Long did knock on the door -- it hasn't been reported if he identified himself as a policeman with a warrant to enter. (Thanks to the Supreme Court decision this year, none of that is even necessary anymore) Instead he fired multiple times through the closed door, one bullet travelling through Strickland's brain, another just missing his heart. Strickland's dog, Blaze, alarmed at the gunshots began to bark and came to the doorway and other officers gunned the dog down.

By this time, according to testimony, Long was in the yard, away from the apartment, freaking out, saying "Oh Jesus Oh Jesus".

The D.A.'s office is continuing a criminal investigation into the case and may attempt to bring other charges before a Grand Jury in January.

Here at this blog, I know I'm just being an armchair detective -- hell, it's a national pasttime, 21st century sport, with it's own celebrities, like Nancy Grace and the entire CourtTV channel or the handsome and sturdy stars of shows like "CSI" and "Law and Order."

But shooting blindly through a door - with no idea who, if anyone, was behind it, is a clear example to me of someone who believes any and all actions are justified.

An editorial in the Wilmington Journal points out some key concerns here:

This whole sorry episode calls into question the safety of every citizen in this city, county and state, especially our children. Who will be the next officer who recklessly acts alone at the risk of all nearby? How appropriate is it to send in a small militia to a well-populated street when there’s no evidence of violence emanating from the address?

And if it wasn’t for the news media, the grand jurors claim they wouldn’t have known that the wrong box was checked on the indictment sheet. How do we know innocent people haven’t been erroneously indicted in the past? Grand jury proceedings are secret by law and no recording of them is made. So how do we hold the system accountable?

How do we know it works, or doesn’t work?"

More on the rise and the deadly mistakes in the use of paramilitary raids can be read here. Or maybe you're ok with the fact that in the early 1980s there were some 3,000 paramilitary raids per year and by the early 2000's, that number is 40,000 a year.

That's all - go watch your favorite team play a game on TV now.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Merry Christmas from Old Friends

It was a favorite from the Christmas 2005 Cup of Joe. And since numerous readers requested it again, then here it is, and hope you have as fine a Christmas/Solstice/Whatever for 2006 as this wee fellow is having. Stick out your tounge for Christmas if it makes you feel festive.

As for me, here is a Christmas image from me (well, actually Chuck Jones and a guy named Seuss) to all of you.

Welcome, Christmas, bring your cheer. Cheer to all Whos far and near. Christmas Day is in our grasp so long as we have hands to clasp. Christmas Day will always be just as long as we have we. Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart and hand in hand.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Camera Obscura - 101 Christmas Classics Free

Never mind scouring the television schedules or the mangled stacks of DVDs in some video store bins looking for the Christmas special or movie or even the hard-to-find parodies of Christmas' past.

Now you can watch what you want, when you want and all for free and online.

The Fanpop Christmas Spot offers 101 favorites all for your holiday pleasure. Yes, 101 classics just for you, dear readers.

There are the obligatory favorites of Charlie Brown, Rudolf, Claymation favorites and even movies like "It's A Wonderful Life" and cartoons galore, from "The Simpsons," "South Park", and even Batman and The Justice League. Plus there are old commercials and the seldom-scene-since-it-aired Chuck Jones and Richard Williams version of "A Christmas Carol."

Music videos are here too, from Bing and Bowie to Judy Garland and much more. Plus TV specials like"Mythbusters" and even Ali G.

But the must-have and must-see entry is one from the late 1970s -- the complete "Star Wars Christmas Special." It is beyond rare and yes, often beyond bizarre.

The links are all here at The Christmas Spot.

Christmas Card Idiocy Redux

The faux shock of the personal Christmas card sent out by Governor Bredesen continues to swirl - much like the swirl that follows when a toilet is flushed and likewise carries a variety of human waste with it.

Truly, people - the intolerance and hate and self-serving partisan dreck surrounding the anger of Bredesen's personal Christmas greeting - has gone on and on and on. Makes me wonder if some Neo-Cons need some time away from staring into The Abyss of Imaginary Woe and perhaps consider instead time spent contemplaing the bona-fide generosity and good will which the rest of us bask in during December.

Since banning all images beyond, beyond --- well, hell, what DO these folk want on a Christmas Card?

Surely not am image of a trio of Zororastrian judicial astrologers from Ancient Persia named Balthasar, Melchior and Caspar riding camels to visit a child in some barn!! There may even have been more such Easterners arriving at the Nativity setting!! Some scholars even say that "Caspar" was a form of the Persian name of "Jaspar," whose real name was
Rustaham-Gondofarr Suren-Pahlav of the Suren-Pahlav Clan, the ruler of the eastern-greater Iran, (via WikiPedia). Perhaps we should all just limit Christmas gifts to gold, frankencense and myrrh.

And an image of some snow-covered log-cabin homestead? Obviously that's a reference to anti-materialism and Global Warming.

One *cough* minister, Patsor Maury Davis of Cornerstone Church in Madison has been widely quoted as saying:
"Christmas ought to be kept pure," and compared the governor's gesture to sending out a picture of a Klansman on Martin Luther King Day

How about a picture of a decorated Christmas tree? Well .... even that is some kind of non-American European notion which elicited the ire of ministers who claimed the "tree" was anti-God, too. (See here)

Blogger Roger Abramson offers this thought:

I realize that asking conservatives of the more whacked-out variety to use good judgment in their political discourse is basically asking for the moon, but it kills me how they seem to have dropped the ball here. If they had any sense, then instead of focusing on the religion issue, what they should have said was how great it was that in this period of gloom and doom, in which Democrats are cackling about the failures of the Bush administration's foreign policy, here is a Democratic governor highlighting--and implicitly endorsing--a relative success."

Using Christmas and politics is ... well, it's a common theme. Here's a sample of a speech which occurred last week in Greene County:

"The Rev. Alexander told the audience Thursday night that those in the right wing of the Republican Party would have “all kinds of problems” if they found out that Jesus was a liberal.

“It would remove one half of their vocabulary. They would no longer know what to say about us Democrats because they couldn’t call us ‘liberals’ because Jesus was one,” he said.

Alexander compared the Pharisees of Jesus’ time to many Republicans of this period of U.S. history.

“Who was the party of the rich? ... Who were the people that were guaranteed that nobody ever got onto their turf? ... That wanted to maintain the status quo? ... That didn’t want to change things?” he asked rhetorically.

“They had to do whatever necessary to maintain power. They had to protect the elite. They had to make sure that the rich got richer. They had to make sure that the poor continued to remain under foot and kept out. And they had to make sure that nobody ever did anything that would change anything,” Alexander said.

He continued, “Jesus said to these Pharisees the most scathing words ever recorded in all Scripture. He said, ‘Woe unto you, you scribes and Pharisees — hypocrites.”

Perhaps a better indication of how some people get the whole idea of Christmas - it is not merely a chance to enhace the national economy, as President Bush said yesterday: "Go shopping." The following is from the Mountain Press in Sevierville:

Nikki Presnell, a teacher in grades six through eight who coordinated the upper-grade side of the fair, said she wanted her students to learn that the concept of Christmas is not all Americanized.

"Everyone celebrates Christmas in a different way," Presnell said. "(The students) also learn geography and where each country is. They've done basic research on the country, and they draw maps and flags, as well as find the Christmas information.

"The students also work with partners," Presnell said, "and that was interesting because you had to depend on someone else and show teamwork and how important that was. Some of the (older) groups worked with the younger students and differentiated instructions."

Sixth-graders Kaity Dunn and Kayla Durham worked together on a project about Greece.

"Instead of Christmas trees, they use this," Kayla said, pointing to a frame with holy water and some green branches around it.

"(Students) have been really high on this from the beginning," Ball said. "When we presented this to them, they were excited.

"We've had a lot of parents and community members involved," she said. "Parents found some of the recipes and cooked traditional dishes that they brought in to share with the kids, and they helped make some of the arts and crafts. This is turning into an entire community event, not just a school event."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Almost A Theremin Christmas

How to explain the thought that arrived unbidden in my brain last night -- "I'd like to hear some Christmas Theremin music".

It's not like I'd just been listening to some Theremin music or had been pondering on the odd and weirdly hypnotic sounds of the strange device. The thought arrived in and of itself, fully formed, like a stranger who appears in front of you claiming to be an old friend.

And so there it was - not borne of some distant memory of Christmas Theremin music Past, or a contstant yearning deep within my flabby heart. Just a sudden craving for something which I did not even think existed. (NOTE: see the update at the end of this post for a most important addition.)

The Theremin, true, fascinates me and has since I learned of it way back in my childhood. Others have, like me, from time to time, expressed interest in ordering one of those kits where you build one. But I never have and no one I know owns one. I did once take piano lessons for some years and yet never moved past the playing (and poorly too, even after six years of ill-attended lessons) of "Silent Night". So while I love all kinds of music, playing an instrument or even singing a song isn't something I can do well or at all.

But a Theremin - there is no keyboard, no fret, no touching the device at all, no way to identify how to evoke a note or a sound in a particular key except for the player's ability to find it by hearing or remembering how a tune sounds or is played. It's sounds are made by memory and electrical fields created by your own body - the stuff of science fiction. A wealth of Theremin related information can be found here, if you know nothing of the instrument, made in the 1920s by a Russian physicist named Lev Theremin.

And so the search was on across the internets, starting, naturally, with YouTube. And I did discover a couple of examples of people trying to play a Christmas song on a Theremin - with terrible results. So I went Google Video and even to the vast collection of music on Odeo. The results were meager. (The curious can look here or here, though these attempts are just awful.)

And not only was there no, or just awful, Christmas Theremin music -- good music samples of the Theremin were not to be found in abundance.

However I did find two astonishing examples of exemplary Theremin musicianship. The first I will add here is from Japan - where else - and features 10 musicians playing a variation of the Theremin. It's called a Matryomin and is built to resemble a Russian nesting doll, or Matryoshka. The musicians play a segment from Dvorak's Symphony No. 9, in E Minor, Opus 95, "From The New World." Keep in mind as you watch how difficult it would be for 10 people to play this on key and in synch with each other.

Still, that did not whet my Theremin Desire. Played by a master, the music created is ethereal and beautiful. Luck was with my search as I found the following video of Lydia Kavina - the last student taught by Theremin himself, whose work was featured in the soundtrack of the movie "Ed Wood." Lydia, surrounded by the appropriate amount of billowing fog and mood lighting performs "Claire de Lune". No, it isn't a Christmas song - but it somehow quenched my thirst for .... whatever it was I was seeking. Enjoy.

UPDATE: As noted in the comments below, the ever-intrepid Cinemonkey was able to locate some honest-to-Pete Christmas Theremin music!! Kudos, Cinemonkey. Here are the links. A complete Christmas Theremin music CD is available here, which includes some samples. And a podcast from Theremin world from Sunday, December 17 devotes part of the broadcast to Theremin Christmas, which you can access here.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Evil Christmas Card of Gov. Bredesen

Some Tennessee bloggers - and a few national ones too - have been angrily deriding the Christmas card created by Governor Bredesen because they do not like the picture it features, which the governor painted himself.

The image is of a woman the governor met while touring Afghanistan, and includes the following thoughts:

May the peace and joy of this Christmas season be with you and your loved ones throughout the coming year," the card reads.

"While it may seem odd to put a portrait of a young Muslim woman on a Christmas card, this Season reminds us that He loves His children most of all," Bredesen stated on the back of the card. . . The back of the card closes with, "May the miracle of Christmas help bring peace to this young woman and her wounded land."

Yeah, that's just evil - wishing peace at Christmas.

Both the Neo-Conservative bloggers and even the Islamic Center in Nashville share the same outrage at the card - why? Simple. They are all Fundamentalists who seek to destroy and deride all things Not Them.

The rhetoric spewed by these Fundamentalists includes:

But on the serious side, why couldn'’t Bredesen have just sent out a simple card with a nativity scene, a tree, a door or a wreath, a dove, heck, any number of traditional Christmas cards.No, apparently it'’s not that simple. He just couldn'’t resist shaking it up politically." -- Terry Frank

"Looks to me like he'’s using a Christian holiday to pander to a religion that has nothing to do with Christmas. Why not put a Menorah on the card then? -- Toni

"The way I feel about the Governor's Christmas Card is likely similar to the way African American women feel about rich and powerful black men taking up with white women. -- Kleinheider

"This obsessive kissing of Muslim posterior does nothing except make us look weak in their eyes. Plenty of Muslims feel entitled to having the kaffir bow down to them, and self-aggrandizing idiocy like painting a Muslim girl and putting her on your Christmas card plays right into that belief. They'’re laughing at us, for God'’s sake." -- comments from Powerline

"We know God loves all his children, but Christianity has plenty of its own imagery for the holiday; we hardly need to borrow from Muslims for holiday greetings, especially these days". -- Captain's Quarters

All their whining, deeply rooted in xenophobia and narrow-minded concepts, is yet another proof that Fundamentalists are a bane on humanity.

They despise individualism, or any thought process that exists outside their miniscule reality. When they oppose something, they always couch it in terms of war. The state, the nation and the world suffer from such Fundamentalists daily and the only positive here is that such tirades at least clearly mark these witless and dangerous tyrants so the rest of us can avoid them.

Wonder if it's ok when a Christmas card has a snowflake on it? Or maybe a reindeer? What about those cards that are homemade photos of the family who sends them?

The likely answer is No. Christmas can have no personal meanings. It is the Fundamentalist way or no way at all - or they will declare war on you.

This wasn't the Official State of Tennessee Christmas Card. It was a personal one from the Governor to those he chose to share with. I do like how Brittney at NIT expressed it:

I honestly cannot believe that people are getting worked up about a Christmas card that WASN'T EVEN FOR THEM. Unless it has your address on it, find something else to get all peeved over."

Monday, December 18, 2006

Link Searches for Cup of Joe, 2006

I used to make a game of entering odd phrases into a Google or Yahoo search engine a few years ago, like typing a nonsense word like "spog" or "frunkle". Today, "spog" could take you to a page for "st. paul's oculomotor group" or to the urban dictionary definitions where spog is now -- uh, meaningful. And "frunkle" is a user-name or something.

It's sort of eerie to see how the search engines of late 2006 try and understand gibberish, and how gibberish isn't gibberish.

It's also most fascinating to track the search words and phrases that will bring visitors here to have a Cup of Joe.

Here's a sample of some recent entries:

1. Robin Wilhoit Naked -- who is looking for nekkid photos of this Knoxville newscaster? Perhaps she is searching herself to make sure "those photos" are NOT on the internets. More likely, there is in fact a sub-culture on the internets who hunt for nekkid pics of local newscasters. Ew.

2. Erotic Pigeon Forge Getaway -- yeah when I think erotic getaway, I think Comedy Barn and discount stores.

3. CSI Facial Reconstruction Toy -- wow, they make those? that's kinda cool.

4. Masterbation for Peace -- um, if you do not know how to spell it ... naw, I guess it doesn't matter.

5. Whale Tails -- this from two places recently - NASA and the U.S. Senate. And they found the post here a legitimate informative one, describing slang for seeing some babe's g-string protruding over the back of her jeans. At least they didn't search for "coin slot."

Of course the hands-down winner this year of our lord 2006 for search entries that have brought readers to this page from single continent, and by reckoning, brought over 7,000 hits since July is "Cats That Look Like Hitler." Best link-post I ever did.

Having It Both Ways

What happened?

Via Christian G.

More Faux News idiocy here. What a load.

Tennessee's Legal Limbo or The Annexation Dance

The wiggly rules about annexation and defined growth boundaries have shown up in two cases in East Tennessee and revealed yet again that property owners' rights are a fading remnant in America.

I admit I am perplexed by the notion, as reported in the KNS story, that only one person was eligible to vote in a South Knoxville annexation proposal on the ballot .... because if only one person was eligible, why place it on an election ballot?? Even more odd is that this Legendary Sole Voter moved into the area which allowed him to vote just prior to the election and rented a home owned by the developer of the annexation site. And after the election, he moved out and the home was destroyed.

The KNS story is here, and R. Neal at KnoxViews also has some questions about this very strange deal.

Meanwhile, in Rogersville - or rather, outside Rogersville - 130 homeowners are suing to prevent annexation of their property. And again, questions arise over whether or nor election laws were followed since this proposal was also on the ballot. The suit was filed by Knox attorney, David Buck, who news reports (via Kingsport-Times News) are eager to describe as:

ssociated with the Knoxville-based anti-annexation group Citizens for Home Rule.

It claims that the people included in the annexation did not want to become part of the city and that the annexation is not reasonably necessary for people living in the affected area.

The lawsuit also makes several claims of technical flaws in the annexation.

For example, it alleges that the plan of services was not advertised for the required 15 days. There is also an allegation that there was not three copies of the plan of services and annexation ordinance available for public viewing at City Hall, the water department and the courthouse, as is also required.

Rogersville City Attorney Bill Phillips was served with the lawsuit Wednesday. He said he doesn't believe there were any technical flaws with the annexation, but if there were they will be corrected."

I love how government can magically go back and revise and re-date documents to make everything legal and correct.

Most notable in both the Knox and Rogersville stories is that these expansions go outside the 20-year growth boundaries which the state demanded cities/counties create. But those boundaries seem to have little meaning -- and worse, the law creating such boundaries also changed the nature of legal actions concerning annexations, so that in legal confrontations, all burden of proof is now on the property owner, and not on cities. The cities no longer have to prove their needs for annexation in court.

Attorney Phillips says with the new law in place, annexation opposition usually fails:

Under the old law, there were many annexations that were overturned by lawsuit," Phillips said. "Under the new law, the burden of proof has switched to the persons being annexed, rather than the town having to prove reasonableness of the annexation. With that burden of proof being switched, it makes a big difference.

"There are very few lawsuits that have been filed since the new law took effect, probably because it's difficult to win."

NOTE: Citizens for Home Rule is an advocacy group supporting rights of individuals. From their web site:

"CHR is dedicated to the preservation of the legal rights of its members in the matter of unwanted annexation, and provides the legal and financial resources to file suit and block such annexations.

We believe CHR is the most litigious advocacy organization in the State of Tennessee, and we are the City of Knoxville's most frequent and most successful litigant."

Sunday, December 17, 2006

im in ur magazine, killin ur n00z.

If you don't understand the headline of this post, then you are not part of the You selected by Time Magazine as Man of the Year in their issue with a faux mirror on the cover.

So instead of You, they should have said Us. Because most of Us know what's what when it comes to the internet, blogs, YouTube, iPod, and other personal computing practices.

Or they could have said Some of You. Or some of Us.

Next year, Time will announce that Them is the winner of their MOTY title.

(oh for the love of -- fine, fine, explanation of the headline on this post can be found here)

Border Wall Company Hires Illegals

I told you this was going to happen. I said it in April about the idiocy of building a Hi-Tech-Mega-Super Wall on the border with Mexico.

A company has agreed to plead guilty for hiring illegals to build the wall to keep illegals out.

A Southern California fence-building company and two executives pleaded guilty Thursday to knowingly hiring illegal immigrants and agreed to pay a combined penalty of $5 million. The executives could also go to prison.

The penalty is one of the biggest fines ever imposed in an immigration case, and the case represents a rare instance in which prosecutors brought criminal charges over the hiring of illegal immigrants."

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Of Toes and Snows

A fine day in December here in East Tennessee, as I can walk outside barefoot still. I know, I know - shades of the barefoot hillbilly.

It's more a matter of deliriously nice weather outside and the fact that last night while taking garbage out to the house-assigned and massive county-sanctioned receptacle here at the homestead, I fumbled my steps in the dark, and stabbed my toe on something far too large for said toe. The result is something not quite broken, but not quite right, a gaping (though wee) wound on the third toe of my right foot.

Socks and shoes make it hurt even more. Yes, I've slathered it with unguents and ointments and various antiseptics, but fortunately it's warm enough to step outside in bare-naked feet to walk the dog around the yard and fetch the mail. Said nakedness won't last, though, as a busy day encroaches and naked feet aren't allowed

The balmy day mocks the agenda ahead - shopping for Christmas items. Sure, the music now playing on the computer is all snow and cold and baby, Santa is coming. Yet sunshine and a high near 70 degrees evokes a tropical Christmas. I love it. Being a lifetime inmate - er, resident - of Tennessee I think of snow and cold as appropriate on two occasions: on Christmas day itself, and only if it dissipates within 48 hours; and on those days in January or February when some wan child has not completed an arduous homework assignment and needs a snow delay for school in order to avoid the wrath of some taciturn teacher.

I subscribe to a myth of my own making regarding snow in Tennessee and the South in general. When the signing of surrender documents at Appamattox in the Civil War occurred, one section of the document included a section stating that from that day forward, if it snows south of the Mason-Dixon line, then that day is clearly designated a holiday. And as long as snow was on the ground, no work or school is mandatory.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Now I am off for some additional salves for the wounded toe and a leisurely search for gifts to give folks for the holidays. A search which will include me finding the perfect gift for me. It relieves pressure from others who might wonder what I'd like and insures a smile on my face when the morning (perhaps snowy) of December 25th dawns.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Six Faces of Bob Dylan

I read some months ago about the "experimental" movie being made by Todd Haynes about iconic singer/songwriter Bob Dylan and that multiple actors were cast to play the man.

A new article talks about the project with one such star-turned-singer, Cate Blanchett.

Each Bob is filmed in a different style too, as Blanchett described hers. "Mine's in black and white and I think some of them are hypercolored. Todd is a genre defying film director to begin with. If you look back to his film school thing about Karen Carpenter, if you've seen it, with the Barbie dolls, it's amazing. He thinks so laterally, in such a Todd Haynes way. I don't think anyone else could have conceived of the idea. And it's great because the fact that I'm a woman, automatically you have that Brechtian distance between the persona of Dylan and the form of the film liberates it from being a biopic."

Others cast to play Mr. Zimmerman include Christian Bale, Richard Gere (??!!!??!), and Heath Ledger. And Cate. The photo here is from a set that appeared on a French web site.

The movie is set to premiere next year at the Cannes Film Festival.

I'll have more movie and entertainment news in a later post today - but this story deserved it's very own space.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Botched Grand Jury In PS3 Shooting

The strange events surrounding the shooting death of Peyton Strickland by police who stormed his apartment got even stranger this week. A judge has declared that a deputy who was indicted on Monday of a charge of second degree murder is not indicted after all. Reports say the jury foreman accidentally checked the wrong box on the jury form.

Cpl. Christopher Long was indicted Monday on a charge of second-degree murder in connection with the Dec. 1 death of Peyton Strickland. But a judge dismissed the charge Tuesday after the foreman of the grand jury said he checked the wrong box on the indictment form and that members of the grand jury didn't find enough evidence to charge Long with murder.

[County D.A.Ben] David met Wednesday with officials from the Special Prosecution Section of the Attorney General's Office to discuss the grand jury's reversal to determine what to do next. He declined to answer specific questions about the investigation Thursday but said the case would move forward."This case is still open. The investigation is ongoing, and future court action is anticipated," David said.

Outrage has brought death threat's against the deputy, which is sheer nonsense. The family of the 18 year old has been through unimaginable and difficult times. But there are elements in the evidence presented so far that stands out in my mind.

One is the deputy's claim in the grand jury hearing that he mistook the sounds of a battering ram for gunshots from inside the house, which prompted him to fire. Forget that he is outside of the apartment, knowing the door is about to be rammed. He's admitted he fired without reason.

That, plus the fact the coroner says the bullets which killed Strickland came through a closed door, indicate some critical breakdown in the normal course of events in serving a warrant and an eagerness to shoot first and ask questions later.

After all the confusion so far, it looks like incompetence wins the day, at the cost of one young man's life. The authorities involved have done massive damage to their own reputations too.

As for the family, they issued to following statement:

This is bizarre.

How can an indictment one day not be an indictment the next? How could this happen? Yesterday, our son’s murderer was going to have to answer for what he did. Today, we just don’t know what is going on in Wilmington. We are upset, confused and searching for answers.

We call on the judge presiding over the grand jury to hold an inquiry into what happened here and make the results public. And, if it shows that anyone even attempted to influence the grand jury, we trust charges of obstructing justice will be filed.

Grainger Today Now Online

It's taken some time to construct and it was time well spent. The online version of the weekly Grainger Today newspaper is up and looks great. You can also link to it in the link list to your left.

Kudos to publisher Steve Cason and his staff for maintaining a solid example of good reporting and good writing. More projects from Grainger Today may also be ahead, and the East Tennessee region continues to to be well-served by their work.

Making A Christmas Classic

No one ever thought it would be memorable, but they were wrong.

What the roomful of executives saw upon the first screening was a shock—a slow and quiet semireligious, jazz-filled 25 minutes, voiced by a cast of inexperienced children, and, perhaps most unforgivably, without a laugh track. “They said, ‘We’ll play it once and that will be all. Good try,’ “ remembers Mendelson. “Bill and I thought we had ruined Charlie Brown forever when it was done. We kind of agreed with the network. One of the animators stood up in the back of the room—he had had a couple of drinks—and he said, ‘It’s going to run for a hundred years,’ and then fell down. We all thought he was crazy, but he was more right than we were.”

Read more about how "A Charlie Brown Christmas" was made, including how the kids were coached into phonetically sounding out their dialog.

Making jabs at commercialism, panic during the holidays, and much more, it also has the best soundtrack I've ever heard for a TV Christmas show. This following is just a wee snippet of the show, but it has The Dance.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Are Men Funnier Than Women?

Are women, as a rule, lacking in humor?

The idea has long been debated among friends, once the old adage was mentioned during one fateful evening, that only men think the Three Stooges are funny. I admit I only know a handful of women who do while men are always fans of the hitting and slapping and sheer violent comedy of the Stooges.

A story in Vanity Fair puts forth the notion that women just don't make with the funny as well as men do, though the article is about as lame a presentation as I've ever read. No surprise that Christopher Hitchens is the author of yet another pitiful proposal, this one titled "Why Women Aren't Funny".

There are nearly 200 comments so far in a post about this story at MetaFilter.

There is agreement that the article in question and it's author are painfully off target. But the question remains - are women, as a rule, just not as funny as men?

It is noted that claiming a man is funny is the equal of the compliment that a woman is pretty. Seems to me that the argument is 'pretty funny' indeed. While I admit that I do know many women who don't seem to be able to tell a joke correctly, that is far different from being funny. Measuring the number of male versus female stand-up comics is no good guide either, as very few really funny stand-up comedians even exist.

I've had the great fun of working with many improv comedy groups and found that the women were just as funny as the men, and in general only a few people excel at improv.

The article in Vanity Fair says humor is just another form of aggression. That is another topic of debate too.

Humorist Robert Benchly once said - "Defining and analyzing humor is a pastime of humorless people."

A friend in high school often made the following claim - "The only things people laugh at are pain and other people."

Far more instructive, however, is the following comment made by an improv comedy troupe member during one evening's rehearsal - "The thing about comedy is, it has to be funny."

That's the best summation of comedy and humor I know.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Have A Very Buffy Christmas

This past weekend my nephew asked me how I was coping with the ever-dwindling televised opportunities to watch "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" reruns. He has no idea how obsessed a fan can be, or how resourceful, but he's young, so it's no biggie.

There are ways, oh yes, many ways.

Take for example the following video, compiled mostly from the 1998 episode "Amends", wherein young Buff has to battle The Harbingers, some blind and very bad priests, who are holding nefarious rituals underneath a christmas tree lot and channeling much bad mojo into the mind of the vampire-nearly-ex-boyfriend Angel. And it all ends with snow, blocking out the sun so Buff and Angel can spend the holiday together. Awwww ....

Just remember what Buff said in that episode as she imagines the required ingredients for a fine Christmas - "Tree. Nog. Roast Beast."

Oh and just for the record - Season 8 of the series will appear in March of 2007 as creator Joss Whendon tells the continuing story of the li'l vampire slayer in a 20-issue comic book run for Dark Horse Comics.

The video originally on this post has disappeared. But you can watch it all online at this Fancast link. ... or, guess you'll just have to fire up yer DVD machines.

Monday, December 11, 2006

PS3 Shooting Now A Murder Case

Today a grand jury indicted a North Carolina deputy with murder in the shooting death of an 18-year-old, Peyton Strickland, said by authorities to be a suspect in a case involving the theft of the PayStation 3 game console. The first reports are here.

I mentioned the bizarre and deadly incident earlier today. The deputy was charged with 2nd degree murder today for shooting and killing Strickland. However, details of the investigation remain shrouded at this time. When I discover more info, I'll gladly share it.

UPDATE: No indictment ocurred. Yes, that's right. full details here.

Strange Case of Police Shooting Over PS3

A press conference is scheduled for today in North Carolina regarding the shooting death by police of an 18-year-old suspected in the robbery of two PlayStation 3's. The details of the event have been very slow in coming forth, but authorities are hard-pressed to explain both what happened and who was involved and several of the deputies who apparently shot through the door of the suspect's apartment have been involved in other shooting deaths as well. One deputy involved has already been fired, even though the investigation is still in the early stages.

When the warrant for Peyton Strickland's arrest was being served, deputies also brought along a special S.W.A.T. team - reports now say that's because someone found pictures of the suspect and some friends posing with guns on a web site. Friends say the picture was done as a joke.

Reports also recently released say that Strickland was apparently shot several times through a closed door, meaning he was shot while deputies were still outside of his home. Strickland's dog was also killed in the assault and witnesses at the scene say Strickland was not armed, but was holding a game console controller.

Blogs in North Carolina have been tracking the story and shifting of blame.

Strickland's father is a well known wrongful death attorney in North Carolina.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Iraq Study Group No Real Help

I have little support or enthusiasm for the much overestimated report from the Iraq Study Group.

You don't have to be a foreign relations expert, or former Bush the First appointee to know that the situation on the ground in Iraq has been grim and yes, deteriorating for some time.

Counting on diplomatic pressure from the likes of Iran and Syria -- no, wouldn't recommend that. Those countries actively, aggressively oppose democratic goals. And prior to the US war in Iraq, even I could have advised White House officials that a weak Iraq and a weak Afghanistan would create the basis for a very powerful Iran.

Let's be honest - Iran has been the poster child for anti-U.S. philosophy since hostages were taken during the U.S. Embassy seizure in 1979. And Syria is a haven for Hussein loyalists.

Despite hopeful admiration for the report, little attention is being paid to two key problems with the U.S. strategy -- contracting out the training of Iraqis to private companies has been rife with fraud and failure; and likewise failure has been achieved at insuring a stable infrastructure of basics like electricity, hospitals, and even oil production.

Facing the house-to-house battles, soldiers are constantly in harm's way. The policies in place and those being weighed now seem only to pull in directions with little advantage for the U.S., our allies and the Iraqis.

In short, the U.S. is in one hell of a mess and clear decisive policies to resolving the war are still elusive. At the very best, the report may perhaps open the eyes wide shut at the White House -- but I doubt seriously if anyone can achieve that.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Wedding Day

There are some recent events which need/deserve blog attention this weekend.

However, real life is interfering. That means I am going to Chattanooga this morning for the wedding of my niece. And I do wish her much happiness.

The will of the triad of my mother, my sister and her daughter is indeed a mighty thing. So I'm suiting up and going in.

UPDATE: In addition to the wedding in Chattanooga, which was a very nice time and my niece was looking even more exceptional than ever, my extended family grew via the wedding (also on the 9th) in Nashville of my brother-in-law, a most excellent fellow who once made me welcome for a long stay in Manhattan, and is one of the newest and bestest songwriters working the Nashville music scene. And his bride is an aspiring screenwriter. So the family kinda doubled in size yesterday. Yay for all of us!!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Camera Obscura - Classic TV on DVD, Christmas Movie Advent

The complete first seasons of two classic TV series arrive finally, and both are must haves.

One is fascinating for capturing the high points and the low for a show that started out as a kind of underground oddity and has become an international giant of entertainment. I do recall very well that first night when NBC aired a show they called only "NBC's Saturday Night" with the Not Ready For Prime Time Players. Putting together the entire 1st season of SNL (and other season sets will follow) was too long in arriving. The show has forever changed television.

The first few seasons all looked as if it had been made in small nooks and around the edges of the NBC building and it isn't all sheer genius and brilliance. There are clunky skits and odd scenes, but the show was almost a nearly instant hit, a collection of loose cannons wildly taking shots at television and fame, with eclectic music and much self-parody. They were mavericks and outsiders, lumping together college style comedy and outrageously bizarre short films with performers singing musical standards and unknown musicians getting their first national exposure.

It was an evolving show too, from the credits design to the structure of opening monologues and the Weekend Update news satire. Hosts, like Richard Pryor, frightened the NBC suits. If you've read any of the so-called histories of the show, you know too that backstage chaos was constant (as was the drug and alcohol).


Also new to DVD is the complete first season of "Mission:Impossible" and within that first season are the reasons why the show has remained so popular that almost 40 years later audiences flock to the movies with that title today.

Intense action, serious writing and storytelling made with style and rapid-fire editing. The show made a template still being followed by other shows, like "24" and even "Lost."

Fans and newcomers alike can see that first season headed by actor Steven Hill as Dan Briggs, as the character of Mr. Phelps played by Peter Graves did not arrive until season two.

It was those other actors and characters that made the show most watchable - Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Greg Morris and Peter Lupus. The scam everyone, including the audience, in spy games and disguises with ultra-cool attitude and backed by a music theme which is still a part of the movie franchise today.


Thanks to the intrepid Cinemonkey, I can point you to a web site which has an Advent Calendar where you can open the li'l doors on the calendar for each day of December and read about a movie to encourage a Christmasy mood.

Check it out here.

Some movies on this list I truly do NOT like however - such as "Home Alone". I thought the whole movie was vapid and dull and, let's be honest, it is also rather sadistic as the Boy Left Alone (not saying his name, sorry) beats and brutalizes some would-be thieves. Just not my idea of 'holiday fun'.

Also - they leave off some movies which I think are great films to bring out that holiday cheer. The 2003 comedy "Elf" is infectious fun with Will Ferrell as the overgrown elf with an addiction to syrup and sugar. Another movie worth the time to watch is "A Christmas Story' -- overplayed to death on TV, I can still enjoy it for many reasons -- Scott Farkus fears and the fishnet hose clad female leg lamp, which the Dad calls "a major award" and the Mom secretly destroys. And where are movie versions of "A Christmas Carol"??

The photo here is via the Tennessee Christmas Tree Growers Association, a site to tell you where you can get the finest in locally grown trees for the holidays.


Do you have a holiday movie favorite?


Mention must be made of the dangers of the Wii Game Console, which will be under many a Christmas Tree this year. Be careful with the dang thing, people!

Actually, the danger is in the controller for the game - seems some people using this wireless controller have gotten so intense during gameplay that they have snapped the wrist-loop on the controller and smashed in their TVs and other household items.

A website devoted to such events is here, where they have gotten the attention of Nintendo's executives, who promise a better wrist-loop is on the way.


On the way for 2008 -- the long-awaited movie version of the Stephen Kind/Peter Straub fantasy novel "The Talisman." The TNT network and producer Steven Spielberg will create the mini-series!

We Have A RoboWinner!

Congratulations goes to a reader here, known as CarpenterJD, whose entry into the Win A RoboReptile Contest was short, sweet and ridden with longing for the new toy. He wrote:

I would like to win the Robo-reptile because I am a frustrated adult/child that still loves to play with toys. Besides, when I was a youngster it was implied that in my adult years I would be aided by robots and flying cars. I have seen neither & I would love to have just a small sample of what life would be like with a Robo-reptile."

'Nuff said, CarpenterJD. Look for the RoboReptile in your mailbox!

My thanks to the DiscoveryStore and the folks at Wowee Toys and with Buzztone marketing for offering readers here this free electronic robotic marvel.

And thanks to all the other readers who submitted entries, too!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Mmmmmm, Hydrogenated .....

Most of us have no idea if or when we consume foods which are made using the now-nefarious partially hydrogentated vegetable oil. Brittney has an interesting post today about the current trend to ban the use of trans fats in food and says:

The restaurant I used to work at fried their frozen crinkle fries in a vat full of trans fats, and they were awesome. Did I eat them every day? I wanted to, but I didn't. Did I eat them once a week? Hell yes, and I wouldn't want it any other way.

I can't believe I'm saying this, it's such a cliche, but everything in moderation. Cigarettes should not be banned, even though you shouldn't smoke them regularly. Same goes for trans fats. I can't believe I'm saying this either, but at what point does personal responsibility for one's diet come into play?"

Some communities and some corporations and some countries are actively banning artificial trans fat usage. Web sites are devoted to the ban. Apparently, it all started with Crisco.

But given the vast number of processed foods, is a label on the side with content ingredients via percentages and small typefaces going to be read by a consumer?

If personal choice of foods is to be maintained, will you soon by asked by food service workers, "Would you like an extra hydrogen atom with that??"

Win A Free RoboReptile!! UPDATE

UPDATE: An Executive Committee meeting of the writers and owners of this blog (me) made a recommendation to alter this contest -- if you'd like to one of these robotic toys, just submit in the comments on this post why you should be the winner.

No Poems, no Essays, No Manifestos, No Power Point Presentations.

Just 25 words or less on why you should be the winner. TIP: If there is only one entry in the comments as of noon Friday, December 8 -- guess what, you'll be the winner!! More than one entry means winners will be selected by me, for whatever reasons I determine to be valid.

As for the 'write a poem' idea, it was not mine. I appreciate very much the efforts on behalf of those offering this Free Christmas Gift from Wowee Toys, but the poem thing just had to go.

Now - more hyping of the product you could win!!!! END UPDATE

All week you can register here for a chance to win a free RoboReptile just in time for Christmas. What is a RoboReptile? Check out the video below and read on to see how you can own one!

Thanks to the folks at the Discovery Store for offering this free, much anticipated and highly rated robotic toy. (Winner of Toy of the Year Award from Child Magazine.)

How can you be the winner? Simple. You enter by writing in the comments on this post why you should be the winner of this unique robotic, prehistoric toy. Just put your thoughts down and all entries will be sent to the RoboReptile campaign for use in their advertising campaign. Fame may at last be yours!

RoboReptile is a fully-programmable 28-inch long toy with remote controls. It whips it's head and tail around as it searches for food or explores the world around it. It's very reptilian face has mouthful of rubber teeth and can jump, lunge, hop on it's rear feet and has infared sensors to see and sonic sensors which make it respond to the sounds around it. Oh and it is a hungry, aggressive critter.

The remote has multiple functions, allowing you to "feed" it, guide it around a room, set it on guard mode and even a volume control for it's roaring and snarling. It also comes with a hood to slip over it's head so you can get some rest from time to time too. Explore more about the RoboReptile here at the Discovery Store.

And again, to enter, just leave in the comments on this post why you'd be the perfect owner, or how your home needs a predatory robot. It's up to you! You can put entries here up until noon EST Friday, December 8th and I'll post the winner's name and poem later Friday afternoon. PLEASE: entries must include an email address so I can contact you and have RoboReptile shipped directly to your home.

If you have any questions, I'll be happy to answer those as well. The toy is NOT recommended for children under the age of 8. Children over the age of 8, such as myself, will love it.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Forgotten Christmas Music and TV

Ah, the holidaze returns.

A dizzy collection of rare (or maybe just forgotten) Christmas music MP3s can be found at Check The Cool Wax, which includes merry tunes from Tex Ritter, Pee-Wee Herman, a Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman Christmas caper, Liberace's dramatic re-telling of 'Twas The Night Before Christmas, links to sites so you can find that fabled favorite of your Christmas Past and enough odd TV and rare albums to satisfy everyone.

Christmas special on TV are an American combo as good as Egg and Nog (and other ingredients). What other seasonal event could have ever brought together Bing Crosby and David Bowie? A TV Christmas episode is mandatory broadcasting.

Vast collections of music and personal videos await you in the Galaxy of YouTube, as well. This compilation of Christmas specials from The Simpsons is one of my favorites. Includes unaired version of Bart's Christmas Rap.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Jowlers and Peep-Jousting

The dog was watching "White Christmas" the other night. I took it for a sign.

It's a sign of a 21st century life - all new and fancy and rich with ways to cross over through the media looking glass and poke around like casual citizen scientists in a new frontier.

Here are two discoveries I made as the dog's tounge lolled at Rosemary Clooney and Bing Croby.

1.) Jowlers - Where Distortion is Cause For Celebration. There's plenty of pictures and a how-to guide. I'm thinking this is the way to craft a Christmas email this year. A Sample?

2.) Peep-Jousting. We should decide wars and elections this way, perhaps introduce it to the Middle East. Seems as likely to succeed as current efforts. Explanation: Three things are neeeded - Peeps, Toothpicks and A Microwave. Explore here.

Vote Scandal Ends With Guilty Pleas

The former mayor pled guilty to 233 counts on charges related to the voting fraud fiasco in 2004 in the town of Appalachia. I first mentioned the case earlier this year. A host of charges emerged during the presentation of the case, including tampering with absentee ballots and trading bags of pork rinds for votes.

The Kingsport-Times News has a wrap-up of the case here. Look like just about all those involved in an attempted grab for power in the town of Appalachia have all confessed to their crimes.

Former mayor Ben Cooper's attorney, Patty Church, told the press her client was no political kingpin, however.

Cooper was "not really a Boss Hogg, and his '‘kingdom' was more like Larry, Curly and Moe," she said of a conspiracy that unraveled after a voter complained that she was not allowed to vote at the polls, having been informed she had already voted by absentee ballot. The voter knew otherwise."

Cooper faces a possible 21 months in jail and over $80,000 in court costs.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

American Life, Circa 1970

Warning: Connecting to the blogsite being mentioned in this post is likely to cause you to spend a good chunk of time searching past posts and experiencing amazement, maybe a little nausea, laughter and some nostalgia too.

I found this yesterday on MetaFilter, and got lost for waaaaay to long. The site features pics from catalogs of the 1970s, especially toys and clothes and other odd bits of the past as the writer has been faithfully scanning images onto his page since starting the blog in April 2006.

The blog is Plaid Stallions: Ramblings and Reflections on 70s Pop Culture.

Take the pics, add in some hilarious commentary and you get a good idea of why, during the 1970s I clung desperately onto wearing just blue jeans and shirts with few embellishments (other than all the weird-ass t-shirts I have). Case in point - the arrival of what one catalog called Man Mates. Nope, would not be caught dead wearing that kind stuff even back then, though I do remember seeing a lot of people falling for it.

And I too recalled how, for a while, dressing alike for couples was a big thing. And click on the images to "embiggen".

Go visit Plaid Stallions for much, much more.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Camera Obscura: Inconvenient Truth; More Masters of Horror; Kung Fu Mysteries

Documentaries have been elevated into mainstream popularity over the last decade by numerous stellar films, and I would imagine the leading contender for an Oscar this year has to be "An Inconvenient Truth" from Al Gore.

It is out on DVD now and more and more households are checking in for an abundance of science and shock on the theories and ideas behind global warming. In terms of the old days of schlock cinema, it's a Mondo Cane of eco-catastrophic fears. Whatever your views on the notion of global crisis, the movie is hard to dismiss.

And Al is on a roll because of it. Since judicial decisions denied him the White House, he has been one of the more relaxed and fascinating figures in politics and entertainment. He pokes great fun at himself on many "Futurama" episodes and TV cameos, and this month's GQ has a terrific and candid interview with the man on the movie, the Bush administration - all no holds barred and often very funny - that is this week's must read.


The Masters of Horror 2nd season on Showtime, which airs new episodes each Friday night at 10 p.m. is not only getting better and better, it's found great stories and new ways for horror directors to shine. Tonite's episode is a new entry from Dario Argento based on an F.Paul Wilson tale and stars Meat Loaf (or as a friend of mine says, "it's old man Loaf's boy, Meat!") who is now identified in movies and TV as Meatloaf Aday.

Last week's episode - John Carpenter's Pro-Life - was jaw dropping audacity incarnate, daring to mingle demons, anti-abortionists, and gore. Of course, it wasn't the mind-bending weird of last season's too-much-for-cable-TV- broadcast of Takashi Miike's "Imprint," (which I showed to friends during the Thanksgiving holidays, and now qualifies as a "clear-the-room" movie.)


The Independent Film Channel has picked up the first of the 1973 epic crime films known as "The Yakuza Papers: Battles Without Honor or Humanity", and it airs tonight at midnight and during the month of December. The very influential style of the movie still resonates today, whether as music in Tarantino's "Kill Bill" or the ruthless, non-romantic gangster movie this year, "The Departed." Director Kinji Fukasaku used the story of the crimelords as social critique, but the movie picks you up and never lets you go.

The movie very accurately depicts the rise of the Yakuza crime families following the end of World War 2. Four sequels followed, but this first one stand very well on it's own. The entire collection is now available on DVD - just in time for someone to give it to me for Christmas!!

And speaking of Asian legends, I read a fascinating account of an American in China who is blogging about his life there. He happened upon a super-cheap and non-pirated copy of the DVD collection of "Kung Fu". Like many my age and some younger, that show was the first introduction we had to the stories and myths and entertainment which broke open the cinema and the world to Asian movies. Check out his blog here -- and yes, learning to say "When you can take the pebble from my hand it will be time for you to leave" in Chinese is a truly cool thing. And follow the mystery of Caine's name here.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Thursday Web-Walk

All the variety of information here deserves a separate post, but instead I'm placing them all on one. Not an act of being the lazy blogger - just a sample of other blogs I'm reading, and some stories that bear repeating.

Over the last month, two bloggers I read often both suffered the sudden loss of beloved family. I have (and many others have too) already written about the death of AT's wife, BJ. He has been continuing to write most passionate and vivid posts about what's happening. It's a continuing account of real life which is truly compelling.

And grief has sadly affected Alice at 10,000 Monkeys and A Camera after the sudden death of her mom in a car accident. That, plus a move into a new home has made her take a break for a bit, but she's writing again. And even in the midst of her trials, she too takes time to mention other blog-writers who have been coping with death. Just a classy lady all the way. Condolences to her family. Her mom sounds like an amazing person.

In Tennessee politics, Mike Silence notes there wasn't much blog discussion about Bill Frist's decision to step away and not run for president. And make no mistake, he was running and has raised millions so far. I'm with Kleinheider at Volunteer Voters - Frist has no political pull anymore. He was unable to get much done as Senate Leader, is facing likely charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission. Talk says he may run for governor. I'd suggest not. As for his medical career - wasn't he recently cited for faking some of the work required to keep his medical license active too?

Some members of the state's Transportation Committee are mulling over the idea of charging every driver in Tennessee a gas tax based on your mileage. A sort of test run of the idea in Portland, Oregon has volunteers driving with transmitters in their vehicles and paying 1.2 cents a mile. So many commuters drive from a half-hour to an hour for work commutes here in east Tennessee, not to mention what it would cost to operate city or county or school system vehicles, and those costs would seem outrageous to me.

Don't know about you, but I don't really have good cell phone skills - my fat fingers fumble over the buttons, I don't create individual ringtones, I don't watch movies or listen to music on one either. But in Japan, we are talking about people who have some serious skills. Winners were just announced for the First Annual Mobile Phone Novel Awards. Yep, writing novels on a phone. Even more amazing that someone could do it - there were over 2,000 people who entered their phone-novels for the top prizes.

One other wired-world bit of news sounds most interesting too - live webcasts of rehearsals for "Saturday Night Live." I am always curious about the backstage of performances and production. I'd watch.

Finally, the government is putting together a test-run for a brand new citizenship test, with new questions which focus on how government works rather than on American history.

And there's your Thursday Web-Walk.