Friday, March 10, 2006

Camera Obscura - Objects and Lies

Funny isn't it - no limos will glide up to a newly renovated Tennessee Theatre, no media will crowd the velvety ropes outlining a regal length of red carpet, no spotlights will arc across the night sky high above Gay Street. Nope, none of that will happen for the movie that was filmed in Knoxville back in 2004 and finally opens in theaters in the U.S. today. I did search for ANY city in the state where it might be opening .... but ... not there. The movie "The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things" finally found a distributor, Palm Pictures, but it doesn't have the kind of story that draws admiration, with issues like child abuse and drug abuse front and center. I do remember back in the 1987 when the limos and velvety goodness did herald a Knoxville Premiere, for the truly awful horror movie directed by David Keith, "The Curse." Got to meet Claude Akins that night (oh, come on - Sheriff Lobo? "B.J.. and the Bear"? "Rio Bravo"? how about that "Monsters on Maple Street" episode of the original "Twilight Zone"? .... no?) And there was a heck of a party at Lord Lindsey's afterward.

"The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things" arrives too with a new promotional tag line, that the writer of the stories it was based on, J.T. LeRoy, was a "great literary hoax" and that the real writer is a woman named Laura Albert. For some years now various people have shown up at all the "hot clubs" or film openings or book signings pretending to be LeRoy until Leroy was outed a few weeks ago -- in fact just after the big shocking Oprah episode where she gave a public spanking to writer James Frey for making up things in his "memoir" about drug abuse and child abuse. I guess if Oprah doesn't give you publicity, then J.T. LeRoy's made-up stories just get lost in the daily shuffle of lies and half-lies that tumble off TV screens and press conferences every few nanoseconds.

Director and co-star of the movie, Asia Argento's second feature does tell a truth in the myths of this story about a young boy raised by a prostitute mom, a series of abusive father substitutes, and is raised for a while as a girl instead of a boy before becoming an adolescent street preacher. And it is a pretty ugly truth - abuse exists and lives get twisted and torn to shreds.

The movie does boast a hefty collection of oddball celebs in bit parts - Peter Fonda, Winona Ryder, Marilyn Manson, etc etc - but don't expect much of any spotlights or red carpets anywhere for this movie. It's disturbing, and could well be a horror movie as made by Asia's dad - Dario Argento. I'm sure more moviegoers will be far more at ease this weekend at the remakes of "The Hills Have Eyes" or the "The Shaggy Dog" (isn't this like the eighth remake of this movie?)

As I was thinking about the current state of "the hoax" and what gets labled a "lie" and what is labled "truth", it reminded me of one of my favorite movies, "Blow-Up" from 1966. The story is about a bored photogapher (David Hemmings) who may have seen or may have imagined seeing a murder take place on a windy day in a London park. He becomes deeply obsessed with the photos he took of "the incident", blowing up the pictures to larger and larger sizes, until all that's left is a collection of black-and-white dots - is there a meaning to the dots or does he make the meaning exist?

Toward the end of the movie, he shambles into a nightclub where The Yardbirds are playing "Stroll On" and the crowd watches like zombies until the guitars start to get smashed and they go wild. A young Jimmy Page keeps playing while a really mad Jeff Beck just stomps on the guitar and hold the pieces up for the audience to see. For some reason, the photographer grabs the guitar neck in a furious struggle and runs away, but no one follows - he tosses the broken pieces away in the street, waiting for someone else to find it and place a meaning to it.
Here's the clip:

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Sex Toy Update

According to a comment left by Britteny at Nashville is Talking, the proposed legislation to outlaw sex toys has been .... um .... "pulled" ... from consideration by Sen. Burks.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Sex Toys In Tennessee

Have I missed some news reports where roving bands of sex toys sales teams are canvassing schoolyards in Tennessee attempting to lure underage kids into buying sex toys? Are there television and radio ads hawking the imitation sex devices upon an unsuspecting public? Apparently, some in the Tennessee State House view these devices as a threat, though I do see and hear endless ads on TV and radio advising to men on how they can "enhance" their genital performance.

Others in the TN blog world have posted on this, notably at Tennessee Guerilla Women and at WhitesCreek Journal, and Say Uncle. Senate Bill 3794 and House Bill 3798 would make it illegal to sell, advertise, publish or exhibit to another person any three-dimensional device designed or marketed as useful primarily for stimulation of human genital organs.

Does "three-dimensional device" include, say, a human hand?

And is this the (ahem) burning,white-hot issue legislators feel requires (ahem) action???

Given that the legislature is "handling" the issues of ethics, conflicts of interest, FBI probes into bribery, investigations into the actions of the widespread failures of state agencies to provide residents with copies of open records (via Newscoma), the stalled improvements to TennCare, the consistently confusing formula for providing state schools with adequate funding -- Sen. Burks and Rep. Swafford have pointed their attentions at devices for self stimulation.

Will we have to create a special Task Force to (ahem) handle this situation? This is more than a waste of legislative time and energy, it's just plain silly. And I have to wonder, is touching yourself soon to be a crime in and of itself?

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Katrina Cash Confusion in Tennessee

Keeping up with the mega-millions and billions in aid for refugees displaced by Hurricane Katrina is like nailing down a spilled tractor-trailer load of mercury as it skitters across the highway. Two recent announcements have left me scratching my head. On the surface, it seems to make sense, but the numbers leave me with questions.

On the plus front, a recent press release from Tennessee government via Lola Potter, reads that "evacuees and landlords should not be alarmed by a FEMA form letter":

"NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee officials say property owners renting to hurricane evacuees should follow new directives from the federal government, but they nor evacuees should fear that leases will be broken without notice. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has sent new messages – through a contractor, Corporate Lodging - telling property owners who are leasing interim shelter units (apartments) for evacuees to sign up for a new program for future payments.

FEMA has not indicated how many of the 3,700 individuals or families now housed in interim sheltering in Tennessee might be eligible for the new program. Over 1,600 are housed in Memphis, 900 in Davidson and surrounding counties, over 250 in Hamilton and surrounding counties, 302 in Knox County, and over 100 in Northeast Tennessee.

"For now, we are not making any changes in the program that provides apartment housing for evacuees in Tennessee,” said Finance and Administration Commissioner Dave Goetz, whose department is responsible for statewide coordination of evacuee housing in Tennessee. Landlords are now signed up for Tennessee’s program – and although we recommend they follow the new federal instructions – they will remain in our program until we work through this difficulty with FEMA.”

Goetz said evacuees should not be alarmed that they may be asked to leave their housing without the 30-day notice assured by FEMA – and property owners should not worry about losing rental income.

In a February 27 letter to FEMA, Tennessee officials reminded FEMA that the agency has an obligation to honor its commitment to the State to reimburse the expense of the leases until we can provide the 30 day advance notification to the lessors. In a letter to the State one week earlier, FEMA indicated all leases ending February 28, 2006, would no longer be paid by FEMA. However, Tennessee negotiated an automatic month-to-month renewal clause after the initial lease term, unless and until the lessor is provided with thirty days notice of intent to abandon the lease. Tennessee officials this week reminded FEMA of its commitment to fulfill those obligations.

State assessment of evacuees participating in the housing program indicates that over 80 percent of the evacuees have no resources available to pay rent and utilities in the apartments where they now reside. The families remaining in Tennessee are among over 20,000 that fled the Gulf Coast last year in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Initial commitments from FEMA indicated interim housing would be paid for up to one year, or September 2006."

Yet, on Friday, an State Briefs article from the Knox News Sentinel (reg. required) includes comments by Senators' Frist and Alexander that about $2.8 million in federal funds have been "earmarked" for the state's K-12 education system for the "more than 3,700 children driven out of the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Karina last summer moved to Tennessee schools."


The first press release mentions the 3,700 families or individuals now housed in TN being assured their leases should remain intact. But the Senators's comments specifically refer to more than 3,700 children now a part of the state's school system.

How many of the refugees - whoops! - make that "evacuees" - are actually kids in school and what are the the actual number of families who relocated here?