Saturday, August 19, 2006

Huck and Tom on The Middle East

A teacher friend of mine sent along this excerpt from Mark Twain's "Tom Sawyer Abroad" featuring Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer talking about the Holy Land. The book was published in 1894 and the attitudes then are pretty much the attitudes today. Truly fascinating stuff.

Twain uses the archaic word "paynim" to refer to non-Christians, and usually meant Moslem.

From Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894):

"Huck Finn, do you mean to tell me you don't know what a crusade is?"

"No," says I, "I don't.

"A crusade is a war to recover the Holy Land from the paynim."

"Which Holy Land?"

"Why, the Holy Land -- there ain't but one."

"What do we want of it?"

"Why, can't you understand? It's in the hands of the paynim, and it's our duty to take it away from them."

"How did we come to let them git hold of it?"

"We didn't come to let them git hold of it. They always had it."

"Why, Tom, then it must belong to them, don't it?"

"Why of course it does. Who said it didn't?"

I studied over it, but couldn't seem to git at the right of it, no way. I says:
"It's too many for me, Tom Sawyer. If I had a farm and it was mine, and another person wanted it, would it be right for him to --"

"Oh, shucks! you don't know enough to come in when it rains, Huck Finn. It ain't a farm, it's entirely different. You see, it's like this. They own the land, just the mere land, and that's all they DO own; but it was our folks, our Jews and Christians, that made it holy, and so they haven't any business to be there defiling it. It's a shame, and we ought not to stand it a minute. We ought to march against them and take it away from them."

"Why, it does seem to me it's the most mixed-up thing I ever see! Now, if I had a farm and another person --"

"Don't I tell you it hasn't got anything to do with farming? Farming is business, just common low-down business: that's all it is, it's all you can say for it; but this is higher, this is religious, and totally different."

Friday, August 18, 2006

Cibo Matto On BTVS

A net surfer from Colorado found this here cup of joe today while searching for some info on the band Cibo Matto, which is a band I discovered while watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer. It's one of several bands that show featured and is a tasty peice of 90s pop.

The episode is the first of the second season, "When She Was Bad" and Buff arrives at the Bronze to tease her friends. She's mean and sexy for most of the episode, and as a member of the male sex, I felt much sympathy for poor Xander, who is dragged to the dance floor for some way-too-close dancing.

Since school is back in session now, and this is a back-to-school episode and since I'll take any excuse to hype Buff and the work of writer/director Joss Whedon, here is a clip from that episode with Cibo Matto playing "Sugar Water" from their CD Viva! La Woman. (Sadly the clip ends before Cordelia gets to make her "get over yourself" speech to Buff and yes I know waaaaaay to much about BTVS.)

Camera Obscura - A Deceitful Heart, Super News and SOAP!

Ahhhhh, Friday movie time. Best day of the week. Nothing is quite as satisfying as finally getting to see a movie made here in East Tennessee which actually hits it's mark so well and so expertly - even if the movie is a hell of a downer. I will admit that after watching it, I can understand why the state's film office and Knoxville's did not push hard for a local premiere. It's an ugly and difficult film, but loaded with talent and made with great fearlessness.

The movie is "The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things," directed by Asia Argento, who also stars in the film with some great cameos from Winona Ryder and Peter Fonda. Argento shot most of the movie in 2004 in Knox and Jefferson counties ... and hey, isn't that Jefferson County Sheriff Davenport eyeing up Asia's skirt in that scene at the jail?? Yeah! It is!! Fine work there sheriff - really, you did your lines very well. And of course there's a brief scene at the Mouse's Ear South too. More on that later.

Some controversy over the writer of the source stories for the movie emerged this year as "J.T. Leroy" who claimed it was auto-biographical turned out to be writer Laura Albert. That aside, the material is a brutal and depressing journey through the horrific child abuse for young Jeremiah. Bounced from a foster home and into the arms of his drug-addicted mother and her madness, the story is far more realistic than anyone would like to admit. Kids do endure this type of horror. Argento never backs off just how bad and insane the world of a helpless child can be. So, no, this is not a movie to "entertain" you.

Argento also bravely plays a role where she is ugly, sick and twisted. I doubt if Hollywood would ever give her the "Charlize Theron Award" for playing an Ugly Monster, but her work is as good as Theron's. Her camera and her narrative style here is like the fragemented and psychological maze of young Jeremiah's mind. Local East TN landmarks are often in the background and you can watch the movie and say "Hey! I know where that is!"

Is it a good sign that seedy and grungy locations in Knox and Jefferson Counties help fill Argento's vision? One thing for sure, including the Mouse's Ear Strip Club is a small but vivid scene of just how low-rent and skanky a journey surrounds the poor Jeremiah.

This movie is not a Special News Report on child abuse and predators. It's a movie which plainly explores the horror and madness some children do experience. As critic Roger Ebert said "
I cannot recommend the film, or dismiss it. My two-star rating represents a compromise between admiration and horror."

Whew. Something a little less awful, Joe?? Please???

Okey Doke. As long as you remember to consider some of the facts in Argento's fiction.

If imitation is flattery, then I has been flattered by the minds behind Atomic Tumor today. And there are fine recommendations there. Check it out!

A writer who was able to tap into childhood and drag some redemption out of the horror was Roald Dahl and this week I finally saw "Charlie and The Chocolate Factory."

I'm one of the few who did not like the other movie "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" based on Dahl's book. For one, Tim Burton gets it - the movie is both dark but very funny and WIllie isn't right in the head for reasons from his own childhood. Best of all, no overly sweet songs. The lyrics Dahl wrote get souped up by composer Danny Elfman into a Missy Misdemeanor style hip-hop, some heavy metal, and even a 60s San Francisco rock medley. Very enertaining movie overall with a hearty recommendation.

Can Burton, Depp and Elfman make the music work for them as well in their announced production for the musical "Sweeney Todd"??

The silliness and the fantasy of Stan Lee's "So You Want To Be A Superhero?" on Sci-Fi Channel has been so entertaining this summer, even though Monkey Woman got the boot last week. The most entertainment is provided by seeing Stan do his stuff. Down to just three contestants now - Feedback, Major Victory and Fat Momma - I feel fairly safe in predicting a winner. I think it may be a close call, but I'm going with Major Victory. Or maybe Feedback. But not Fat Momma. But one of them. Feh. Maybe I should just watch to see what happens.

Make Mine Marvel!

According to Lee's Useless Super Hero Generator, I can be The Perplexing Lightning Utqsjbbu, oh yeah.... that's me. (snark)

Newscoma has the details that "Cracked" is Back! It's not Mad Magazine, but it was Cracked.
Jean-Pierre Melville's 1969 movie about the French Resistance gets a rave review here from Pith in the Wind on it's re-release.

Last week I finally got to see Melville's "The Samurai" (1967) which has been a very influential movie, especially for John Woo's "The Killer." And while raves are heaped on Melville's restrained hitman, I think Woo made it better. Woo turned Melville's symbolism into operatic action. And Woo has influenced nearly evey action movie Hollywood has made since.

The tubes of the internets have been humming a happy happy song about the tounge-in-cheek thriller "Snakes On A Plane" since fans demaned the movie retain its original title last year. It opens today. Expect big business. Or Samuel L. Jackson may get medival on yer ass. An entire timeline of the movie's journey from failure to megahype is here.

SOAP looks like the best drive-in movie of the year. Now if I could just force an internet tubes campaign to bring back the Drive-In.

UPDATE: A post by LA Barabbas reveals another in a string of confused identities which happens as he works withing the major studio systems in LA. It makes me realized I do need to go to Hollywood and follow the always lucky LAB around - I'm telling you, we could turn these events into either a movie or a contract.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A Comedian Is President

If politics has become a stale and unpleasant joke, then why not make a comedian president?

That's the idea in the new movie "Man of the Year" written and directed by Barry Levinson and starring Robin Williams, Chris Walken, and Lewis Black. Imagine John Stewart making a run for the White House. Here's the preview:

Are State and Local Taxes About to Jump?

The funding mechanisms of local and state government are headed for a collision course which will impact all residents and businesses - perhaps property owners the most - according to a new study from the TACIR (TN Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations).

The full study is here and a news report on the study here.

The TACIR often influences how new policies are made in the state, and the ideas they present in their study point the way to how the current system may change.

One of the most notable elements of the study is that Residential property taxes have been increasing while tax revenues from business have been decreasing.

TACIR noted that from 1973 to 2000, the residential share of total property tax assessments rose from 35 percent to almost 50 percent, while the commercial and industrial share hovered close to 40 percent. By 2005, residential property represented 53.3 percent of total assessments, while commercial and industrial assessments had dropped to 35.9 percent."

I always see these types of "advisory reports" as the smoke of a growing fire. The state has been reluctant to increase the share of revenues from sales taxes to cities and counties -- that seems to be the most obvious way to aid communities and keep property taxes from a dangerous increase. Fear of a rejection or an exodus of business means the individual will be targeted instead.

Another suggestion from this report is far more ominous and may point the way that some in state and local government want to steer -- more taxing authority for cities and counties. The report says:

"Significant new taxing authority that allows local governments to take advantage of existing tax bases or activities that are currently untaxed. Possible changes include an increase in the local sales tax single article limitation (currently set at $1,600), the authority to levy payroll taxes, and local ad valorem vehicle taxes in lieu of existing wheel taxes."

A local payroll tax?? That would be a very bad move. Yet, higher taxes are certainly being considered and it appears thought is being given to find a way to quickly and quietly to change the way residents in the state are taxed.

After all, the report also says one of the "problems" in creating revenue is the "truth in taxation" laws are so public that it is "politically difficult" to raise taxes on property. Sounds too much like some "less public" decision-making is the goal here.

Once the TACIR begins to influence legislation, it is usually with a specific goal in mind. Government is always looking for ways to increase taxation and public review is the best way to insure spending isn't bloated and that any new legislation is necessary and fair.

What They Said

Some Wedesday web-walking has much to offer on all kinds of topics - discuss them as you wish.

I will make this claim first, however -- seems there were so many electronic problems, long lines and mistakes made in the August 2006 elections across the state. Here in Hamblen County, a two vote margin for the seat of incumbent County Commissioner Bobby Reinhardt has prompted him to file a suit because election officials say the vote tally shows a total tie, except in the absentee ballots - and that a court order is required to conduct a recount of those votes. Hopefully, the suit also calls for checking the registration status of all absentee voters.

Lawsuits have followed in county after county - was it really just electronic malfunctions or a long ballot? Isn't this a clear sign to the state election office to investigate the problems and provide some assistance?

Salem's Lots has a fine post on the myths of immigrants legal and illegal and how the state and federal officials respond to the issue. Here is a sample:

I'm tired of being anecdoted and told we have a problem, without seeing any real evidence. I'm not saying there is no problem, but I want to know what it really is.

Jingoism and xenophobia may boost ratings for talk show hosts, and probably engenders comments I read recently that Nolensville Road is becoming a junior Tijuana (obviously the commenter has never been to the real Tijuana), but hot air does little but produce steam.

Yeah, we could bump up the penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants, but the truth is, we don't have the means of enforcement, and it would probably do little than cause employers do a more efficient job of keeping illegals off the books.

I'm not saying that our nation's borders should be opened and unguarded. I just don't see how we can legislate here in Tennessee, based on anecdotes, ignorance and fear.

Can you honestly say that illegal immigrants have had a detrimental effect on YOUR life?

It is also odd to me that very little news media attention has been paid to the massive federal probe and charges against Garcia Labor Company. The charges indicate the company was aggressively seeking ways to employ illegals, but the state's media have given the story a very low profile.

Did you know the US has been at war longer with Iraq than with Germany in WW2? I've said it before, but the fact is we have had an active military operational status in Iraq since 1991 - 15 years and counting.

Go check out the saga of Tennesse Jed and his Bronco. He got it back!

Giving into Fear is what terrorists want, isn't it? Then take a look at what Tam says:

If they "hate our freedom" so much, Georgie, then why are we doing everything we can to help them kill it?"

That's a quick peek around the state - if you have a burning issue in yer noggin, add it in the comments and we'llt ake that on too!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

You're Fat and You Need Government Help

There are more obese people in the world now than there are undernourished people, according to comments presented at the annual conference of International Association of Agricultural Economists. Simply put, worldwide humanity is quickly becoming fat and fatter and market manipulation is viewed as a solution.

Barry Popkin says government intervention or a manipulation of pricing on "unhealthy foods" may be the way to reduce the fat:

But all countries have failed to address the obesity "boom," Popkin said. Food prices may be used to manipulate people's diets and tilt them towards healthier options, he suggested.

For instance, if we charge money for every calorie of soft drink and fruit drink that was consumed, people would consume less of it. If we subsidize fruit and vegetable production, people would consume more of it and we would have a healthier diet," Popkin said."

Marketing - not as in going to one, but as in advertising to consumers - is seen by some as the real culprit here. Rules over adverstising, existing federal guidelines which are often deeply deceptive, and an enormous increase in the reliance on processed foods do not make it simple for the average person to even comprehend what foods we eat and what we don't.

A recent interview with writer/author Michael Pollan says we have to become "food detectives" to discover what we are really eating in America -- mostly corn and sugar. Then of course, there are the cows fed chicken poop, which we then eat, and that supermarkets are the worst places to get good food. Yeah, and which government agency decided to allow for crap and meat to be fed to chickens and cows??

Read the interview with Pollan here.

And put that bag of "go-food" down and take a dang walk, people.

Or wait until Nanny Government, pushed by industrial needs and fearful consumers, dictates what your daily intake of calories will be.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Mandatory Lie Detector Tests?

A fascinating story was cited today by Justin on KnoxViews about a "test" that's been taking place at the airport in Knoxville this summer. The project requires those who fly to take a mini lie-detector test in order to identify terrorists or other lawbreakers who take to the air.

The news story from the WSJ says:

The test alone signals a push for new ways to combat terrorists using technology. Authorities are convinced that beyond hunting for weapons and dangerous liquids brought on board airliners, the battle for security lies in identifying dangerous passengers.

Here is the Cogito concept: A passenger enters the booth, swipes his passport and responds in his choice of language to 15 to 20 questions generated by factors such as the location, and personal attributes like nationality, gender and age. The process takes as much as five minutes, after which the passenger is either cleared or interviewed further by a security officer."

So the ONLY way this dectection can work is if air passensgers are all subjected to this test?

Stupid, just stupid.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Fluffy Chucklefanny

"Thus, for example, George W. Bush's new name is: Fluffy Chucklefanny.

(Thanks goes to Tits McGee for revealing the above web page and the fun to be had there. Your new name awaits you there too. And if you want to know why I am not mentioning my "new name", you'll have to just go to the web page above and do as instructed with the letters of my name. Oh and you can leave it in the comments if you think I'm being chicken for not adding mine next to Fluffy Chucklefanny's. Seems that whenever I do these re-naming games, something horrible appears. .... ok, fine, fine -- my new name is Crusty Pottysquirt. Happy?? Jeepers, name makes me think I need to carry some towels or somethin'.)

Not Really Lost Apollo 11 Footage

I think I know how the NASA folks feel. It isn't that something important is missing or destroyed, it's just that no one knows where it is.

That's not really lost, then is it?

Half-information and innuendo have led some to decide that there are some soooper-secret "lost Apollo mission tapes" containing soooooper-secret government information. Not sure what information could be - alien contact, footage of Neil Armstrong on a faked Moon-landing site maybe?

Here's the deal:

High quality television signals from the first Moon landing (and other missions) were recorded on telemetry tapes at three locations. A search is on to find these tapes, since the original slow-scan tapes won't last forever. But finding the tapes has become something of a mystery.

So the tapes are not lost. Not yet. If they aren't somewhere, then they may be destroyed. But that isn't lost is it?

But perhaps it would be a good idea to locate them, before the only reference for the Moon landing becomes a footnote for Famous MTV logos.

Survey Says Democrats Have The Advantage

A survey out this weekend from Newsweek reveals a growing trend among Americans - that Democrats would provide improved leadership in both policymaking and the national economy.

From the survey:

Fifty-three percent of respondents said they wanted to see the Democrats win enough seats to take over Congress, while 34 percent said they wanted the Republicans to retain control, the poll found.

Fifty-three percent of Americans surveyed also said they trusted the Democrats to better manage the economy, while 34 percent sided with Republicans, according to the poll.

The GOP-led Congress has been staggered by charges of corruption, an economy built on deficits, and a lack of supervision over the other branches of government. While the approval of the current Bush administration has improved, the coming fall elections are aabout the Congress.

The recent win of Ned Lamont in Connecticut is not a referendum on the war in Iraq - it was a clear voice on the disapproval of Congress and the view that they are failing to do their jobs.

The idea that it's the GOP way or terrorism wins is a false framing of the issues Americans are debating in earnest. A wider range of policies and actions in the military and the diplomatic realms need consideration, and that the It's Good Us or Evil Them argument doesn't serve America's best interests. Both political wings need to remember that.