Saturday, October 07, 2006

A Story With More Diversions Than A Political Campaign

So I walk into the tiny convenience store the other morning, probably to get more of those cigars my doctor has said I really should avoid since I am toying with a return to my dangerous habit of starting to smoke cigarettes again, which I won't, they smell so nasty now and it has been an impossible habit to break, and anyway, I just spent the last few weeks wandering the hallways of a hospital in Knoxville in the section where people dying from smoking habits fill each room and echoes of pain seared my ears, so even if I do have a few cigars, I have so much fear of smoking-related illnesses I've begun to equate having that cigar to chewing on radioactive cyanide bubble-gum and wonder why I do it at all.

Jeez. Where the heck was I?

Oh yeah, I walked into this little market. And really anymore, if the store I walk into isn't a hundred-bajillion-square-feet of Monster Store, then it is a teeny market that carries odd items like cans of Vienna Sausages, beef jerky, Power drinks, B.C. Powder and usually something like a Confederate Flag shaped into a Yin-Yang symbol on the outside of an imitation Zippo lighter. And lottery tickets.

And why is that hundreds of billions of dollars has been awarded to states and attorneys on behalf of lawsuits related to bad business practices of cigarette companies and I have never received one thin dime for the 30 years I spent smoking, which results in me having Immense Fear of the sleeping rattlesnake of smoke coiled in the bottom of my lungs? I mean, do I have to find some actual group of people who have signed onto some class-action lawsuit and then join them officially by spending what little money I have filing some sort of legal papers? What if the suit is lost? Do I have to pay even more?

Aw, jeez. I'm waaay off from where this one started. I blame that habit of telling long jokes usually populated with talking animals, imaginary creatures or religious leaders simply to end in a really bad pun, like "Silly Rabbi, kicks are for Trids" or some such nonsense.

And really, at this point, can I even get to where I was going from here? Lemme go get a cup of coffee to clear my head and try this again.

Ahhhhh, coffee, my favorite bean product.

Let's try this approach - after reading the above it may (or may not) seem obvious I have various fears of inanimate and animate objects which clutter up the world and sometimes going out to do something simple requires I somehow gather a hefty amount of courage to attempt interaction.

I used to just think I had a verrrry low tolerance to Stupid and actually being out there in the world among Others, that threshold was quickly crossed and I got headaches and felt anger and bile rising up my gullet. I sincerely fought to combat that by trying to imagine, all Zen-like, that everyone and everything I saw and heard was just another facet of myself, which can make you think you're either really messed up or humble you into realizing you ain't all that. And on those rare occasions when I can see something of myself in everyone, I start to get dizzy.

OK, wait - I'm drifting again. Must be these sinus problems and my general slacking, procrastinating ways.

Suffice to say, I think everybody has to suck it up and get out in the world since it is populated by both people and things which often seem so alien it's no wonder wingnuts and wackos seem to fill up the world. I mean, I see some order in stuff like the trees and the grass and the sunshine (or clouds), but I fathom zero usefulness or order to some now-agendized and activated political program which requires me to staple myself into my taxed and insured mode of transportation, which I am only allowed to use on certain stretches of tax-funded pavement, and if I'm lucky enough to work I can only sit at the desk a certain way and not have photos or personal items in my work area for fear it may somehow de-value the stock of the company I work for or offend some tenderfooted numbskull who fears the affects a word or a picture might have on the Structure of Civilization itself.

Ah. damn! Sorry, sorry everyone. There really was a rather funny little event I was going to relate and these somewhat deranged diatribes have pretty much sucked all the Funny out of this post.


Sure, I could delete all the above and write it again. But just this week I was wondering how many fine and excellent pieces of writing appear on the internets in all the pages and blogs, fine sentences and metaphors which in the past some would-be writer might struggle for a week or a day to achieve and even if created, what chance did that person have of seeing other people read it? Of course, sometimes finding a good sentence or thought in all the digitally textualized moments on the Web is rather akin to sifting a pan through muddy waters for a year to find a few nuggets of valuable mineral.

And now that this story I wanted to tell has trailed away with so many distractions and diversions it could qualify as a campaign for public office, then let me summarize as the Would-Be Campaigner:

"I can assure you, my friends, the story you could have heard today would have warmed the hearts of America's family and embiggened us all with our common humanity. And again, let me assure you of my good intentions - I am sure the honesty of my words will be perceived as such by all honest men and women.

For now, I shall take my leave but upon my return, I vow to provide the story we have all come here today to hear, and have every right to hear as Liberty-loving Americans, will be presented in it's entirety.

Thank you and God Bless America."

Friday, October 06, 2006

More Friday Film Fun

Begin by checking out The Mother of All Trailers here for the most awe-inspiring film preview of the season.

Writer/director Joss Whedon vents on all the web rumors about his work and says "Wonder Woman" will be played by that "interweb" star, Lonelygirl. Heh heh. Also, he'll tell you about CLEM! The Musical.

In the Real World, Ann Coulter gets buuuurned in Reason 5,346 why she is an unreliable hack.

And lastly, there is one huge Harvest Moon up in the sky this weekend. With the approach of this giant orb and the impending arrival of Halloween, here is what happens when a creation from the mind of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft turns into a call-in talk show host -- it's Calls For Cthulu --

Camera Obscura - The Departed, The Proposition and Other Acts of Vengeance

It"s no secret I am a big fan of the Hong Kong action films and many of them draw power and ideas from American Cinema. Director John Woo's operatic "The Killer" is dedicated to Martin Scorsese, who returns the thanks this weekend with the release of "The Departed," a loose remake of one of the best HK films in some years, "Infernal Affairs."

The hallmarks of Scorsese violence are large in "The Departed" and he leans heavily on three A-List stars - Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson - in an epic story of living double lives, as police detectives, mob informants and mob bosses. His version of the film, set in Boston, also runs about 50 minutes longer. Scriptwriter William Monahan says he never saw the original film, but made his adaptation after reading a translated version of the original Chinese script.

It's a good way to re-interpret the movie, since the original's visual style, pace, acting and music are truly without match. The Scorsese film flows more from his own style, which will give audiences two distinct takes on a similar story. But I get so disgusted with American critics/media promoters who claim this movie is a "triumphant return" for Marty -- as if he last two or three were somehow sub-par, half-assed nonsense.

What I do encourage viewers to do, however, is to vigorously search out "Infernal Affairs." Not only does it boast it's own A-List Asian stars, the movie is expertly engrossing, suspenseful and constantly surprising with the way it twists and turns the characters. It swept up so many awards in 2002 and has such respect in the film community, it clearly echoes the admiration Hollywood gave to "Seven Samurai", which has been endlessly remade.


As with "The Departed," another type of cop drama, another type of re-imagining of genres hit DVD shelves with the visceral and relentless Australian "western", "The Proposition". A gritty and character driven script by punk rock legend Nick Cave, the movie takes on a time-honored story of what is deemed necessary to "civilize" the countryside from haven for "outlaws and savages". It opens in mid-shootout, which is as grim as anything from Peckinpah -- messy, chaotic and not one bit sanitized.

The local "sheriff", Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone) and his crew ends up capturing members of the brutal Burns family and, in his mind, offers a crafty plan. He tells Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) he will hang the somewhat innocent youngest Burns brother unless Charlie seeks out and kills the oldest of the family, brother Arthur (Danny Huston).

Just as Sergio Leone did in the 1960s, director John Hillcoat, fills the screen with a scarred and barren landscape of faces and scrubby wastelands. The story also draws from ideas used by Clint Eastwood to examine the nature and effects of equating revenge and retribution with justice. No mistake, the Burns brothers are ugly beasts - but the ugliness of the settlers and the law is made nearly identical. And for all the intense violence, the story is also deeply subtle and never preachy. It has moments of lyrical beauty and absurd madness.

The movie is not for every taste, I admit. But it is deeply haunting and a brilliant take on the Western genre. Also of note are the fine performances by Winstone (who also provided the voice for the cuddly li'l beaver in "Narnia'), Pearce, and Huston. Huston, the son of director John Huston has been making terrific supporting roles in a wide range of films over the last few years. But here he stakes out a real breakthrough performance.


Poor George Lucas - loved for creating the "Star Wars" movies and hated for making more of them - is truly having a tough time with what to do now. He announced this week he is giving up on film and is taking Lucasfilm to television -- "
We don't want to make movies. We're about to get into television. As far as Lucasfilm is concerned, we've moved away from the feature film thing because it's too expensive and it's too risky. "I think the secret to the future is quantity," Lucas said."

George -- it's the Quality we all miss.


As the American Library Association has again devoted time and attention to books that have been banned or removed from shelves due to complaints, I noticed a webpage of short student-made videos based on some of these nefarious writings.

Take that, you censors!! If a parent was horrified their child might encounter "Catcher In The Rye," the short video translating it with a lesbian twist may well make their heads explode. Also featured are videos based on such banned titles as "To Kill A Mockingbird" and "Brave New World" Check the page out here.


Here's one for your discussion and review -- a list of the best ever zombie movies via RetroCrush. The good folks there even give you YouTube clips of all their picks.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Why Sen. Frist Loves Mark Foley

A roundup of the outrage and verb-rage among Tennessee bloggers about the Congressman Mark Foley scandal which Brittany put together is an astonishing thing.

Those are just a few of the writers in one state, so the entire national media output on this whole deal, if converted to, say, electrical energy, would likely be enough to eliminate the infamous 'oil addiction' our humble country shakes and shivers from like the most stereotypical junkie of all time.

Of all the many thoughts I read today, however, I liked how the folks at Liberadio framed it -- the political landscape is currently eyeball-deep in disastrous leadership of nearly every stripe, but a sex scandal - now there's an attention-grabber!!

The one and only Republican who is on his knees (*cough*) thanking Mark Foley for getting freaky with the boys is Tennessee Senator Bill Frist.


Because Foley's problems have pushed the dangerous confessional comments the senator made about appeasing the Taliban terrorists so far into the background, it's like he never said what he did say:

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said Monday that the war against Taliban guerrillas in Afghanistan could never be won militarily, and he urged support for efforts to bring "people who call themselves Taliban" into the government.

Frist said he learned from military briefings that Taliban fighters were too numerous and had too much popular support to be defeated on the battlefield.

"You need to bring them into a more transparent type of government," he said during a visit to a military base in the Taliban stronghold of Qalat. "And if that's accomplished, we'll be successful."

Frenzied internet sex scandals win the day - and idiots rule in Washington.

Schools of Violence

I was driving past a few elementary and middle schools yesterday on my way into Knoxville, and I had to wonder how many of the parents, teachers, and of course the kids, were thinking about the three most recent violent attacks inside schools in America.

One of the schools I passed was the scene last August of an incident where a fight over a weapon in a bathroom led to one teen being shot in the leg and two students being charged with planning to kill a teacher. So even in the most rural of settings, violence erupts in a school.

The horrific events in the small Amish school were created by a very disturbed adult, and not a child. In just about every way, I'm glad I do not easily grasp how such a thing can happen. Even though there may be explanations and reasons provided in this case - the acts the man took made everything worse.

Writer William Gaddis once wrote that it was one of the "blessings of childhood that when they are being warped the most they are aware of it the least." I used to think that line had some truth, but not so anymore. With friends who work with abused children, with an awareness of how brutal and sadly how often adults can warp a child, I tend to marvel instead that any of us make the passage from infant to adult with few warps and twists.

The school years seemed to take an eternity to pass for me, as slow as the endless seconds which might occur on the event horizon of a black hole. I have some fine memories of those days, but mostly I never liked being there. And there violent events in my own school, back when nearly every boy carried a pocketknife. I remember one girl in 5th grade who gained infamy when she boasted about the straight razor she carried in her purse. But no teacher or administrator ever confronted her or took the weapon away.

The items teachers confiscated in those days were comic books, yo-yos, or stuff ordered from the ads in comics like joy buzzers and whoopee cushions and "x-ray specs" and vampire teeth, or maybe the toys one could fit into our pre-techno pockets like Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars, green toy soldiers, and other tiny distractions we used to enliven the dull droning days.

By fifth or sixth grade, educators were experimenting with the effects of circular chair placements, "learning pods" instead of classrooms, and other oddities that seemed to emphasize the geometries of space rather than the efficacy of lesson plans.

By the last few years of high school, you would sometimes see a student hustled into "the office" with a small bag of marijuana or some pills they snagged from the home medicine cabinet or maybe bought from a fellow student.

And also in those last days of my time in high school, I could sense this real and growing deep despair among students and faculty alike - some prompted by the multitudes of "broken homes", by the depths of poverty and the increasing pressures and menace of social status. That social ordering was becoming vicious - who you were or were not friends with started being an intensely cruel situation. And I was in a very small school, which I typically think of as so small we hardly had enough people to form more than one clique -- but they were formed and the rules of association and disassociation were very harsh.

When I graduated, I felt as if I had been released from prison, though I'm sure that sounds like a very lame comparison.

I admit there were a few teachers in high school which I actively punished with psychological attacks, pushing at boundaries and behaviors if only to define those boundaries. One dull afternoon in my senior year, I was standing in the hallways prior to a class with a few of my friends and one of them whipped out a deck of playing cards and we started flipping them at each other - well, trying to flip them. We were hardly ninja assassins with throwing acumen. Still, a vice-principal saw us, took us into "the office" and lectured us for half an hour on the Evils of our card throwing. He actually said "someone could have lost an eye" and I nearly hemorrhaged suppressing a laugh.

If that event were to occur in a school setting today, myself and my companions would likely be treated to the absurdity of "Zero Tolerance", be forever expelled and possibly have to appear in court.

Statistics currently indicate episodes of school violence are declining, but obviously the intensity and media feeding frenzy that follows create the impression of schools as dangerous, dark places with metal detectors, windowless rooms, constant camera surveillance, lockdowns, constantly roving police officers.

Current policies labels like No Child Left Behind or Zero Tolerance, along with constant testing pressures in which scores must reach certain levels and continue to roll upwards or loss of federal funding is threatened, all that policy-making and pressure, along with events like those in recent weeks and the Columbine Fear that seem to envelope all education make me even happier that I left school long ago and that I don't have children who would be immersed in such bizarre cultures.

Instead, as I did yesterday, I drove past the school zones feeling some sympathies for all those kids and adults left in these buildings to make their way in an ever more convoluted maze. It appears to me the process has become more confusing, the goals and methods obscured by federal or local regulations with mystifying meanings.

I consider myself fortunate that while I have the maddening adult world to contend with, I don't have the added confusions and fears of what my children may or may not experience in public education. Too often I hear the emphasis being placed on students that they must learn well in order to obtain a good job, and seldom do I hear emphasis placed on the real value of education for it's own sake - to develop critical thinking skills and comprehension, to realize that we must constantly process information and determine whether it is factual or theoretical, that learning to express yourself can be the most important of lessons.

'Greatest American Hero' Returns

Back in the early months of 1981, the nation was about to have an actor transform into a president and the hostage nightmare in Iran was about to end. MTV was about to be launched. In 1981, Justin Timberlake and Paris Hilton would be born. And in those early months a new adventure-comedy TV show arrived and it finally arrives this week in a brand spankin' new DVD set.

"The Greatest American Hero" was an unusual mix of comedy and drama and fantasy. A mild mannered school teacher (William Katt) receives an unwanted draft into superhero status one night when aliens give him a vivid red super suit and an instruction book on how to operate it. The aliens depart and unfortunately, our "hero" loses the book.

Mixing the comedy and the drama was well done by stars Katt and an oddball FBI agent (Robert Culp), though most people recall the show these days because it's theme song actually broke into the Top 40 charts.

I'll have more on this new DVD boxed set from Anchor Bay in a few days, but the limited edition set now available boasts some true fanboy items to attract your attention -- the limited edition tin-box set includes all 3 seasons, a full length American Hero cape and the instruction book on it's operation (don't lose it!!), and 200 randomly inserted autographed pics of Katt. This new set has already earned the sci-fi Saturn Award for "Best Retro Television Release on DVD".

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

More of My One-Sided, Narrow Views

Had enough yet?

More on the forgetful Rice memory.

Thank you sir, may I have another?

(hey, you know, it's really, REALLY easy to imitate the blog stylings of InstyBoyWonderPundit - it's is just like they say - all linky, no thinky.)

Oh and AT refers us to 19 Terrific Midnight Movies.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Non-Denials of "Denial"

When I read the following comments from the Secretary of State for the current Bush administration, my head shook really hard and made one of those old Tex Avery cartoon noises. My eyes likely shot out of my head and rolled under the table, again as in Tex Avery land.

Bob Woodward's book "State of Denial" refers to a meeting held July 10, 2001 where then-CIA Director George Tenet and his top counter-terrorism aide Cofe Black informed Condoleezza Rice of their fears of an impending attack on the U.S. was likely. The book claims Rice brushed aside their concerns.

In a report from Rueters, Rice made several comments in response to the book, which are deeply contradictory.

Rice said she had no specific recollection of the meeting, stressed that the threat reporting at the time was about potential attacks abroad rather than at home, and denied she was given a warning of a possible strike on the United States.

"I don't know that this meeting took place ... what I am quite certain of is that (it) was not a meeting in which I was told that there was an impending attack and I refused to respond," Rice told reporters as she flew to the Middle East.

"I would remember if I was told, as this account apparently says, that there was about to be an attack in the United States. And the idea that I would somehow have ignored that, I find, incomprehensible," Rice added."

So, she has no memory of the meeting, but she remembers she did not hear any warning from Tenet at that meeting."

Incomprehensible, indeed.

The report also includes a denial from Rice that she urged for the removal of Rumsfeld, but that she did express the idea of replacing the "entire national security team" -- which she then explains as meaning only herself.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Thomas Jefferson Sent Me an Email

I can honestly say it is not every day that I receive an email from Thomas Jefferson. Yeah, THE Thomas Jefferson. Even less likely, the email was a link to a video from YouTube. That website is truly gathering market saturation.

Added to Mr.Jefferson's email was the comment that "it is your patriotic duty to watch this video."

The video he sent is from what may well be one of the last true examples of a newscaster who crafts editorials and stories which exhibit courage, insight and relevant analysis of the news business today.

More than once, he has been compared to the legendary Edward Murrow - a man who dared speak frankly and eloquently on the dangerous failures and gross incompetence in our national leadership.

The newsman is Keith Olbermann, and in this video, he is speaking about former President Clinton's scathing and factual refutation of the hit job made on him by FOX news and "reporter" Chris Wallace.

Crooks and Liars has a post noting how rapidly FOX changed their headline on Clinton's response from "Crazed" to "Strong Reaction". Also on that page, you can read the transcript of the Wallace/Clinton discussion.

Mr. Jefferson also included this link -- it reveals the more wrong-headed and flat out incorrect information a person has regarding certain U.S. policies are FOX viewers. The other networks fare little better.