Saturday, October 14, 2006

George Lucas on The Colbert Report

The best moment on TV this week was on The Colbert Report when George Lucas showed up to show off his entry in The Green Screen Challenge, a set up for viewers to offer their filmmaking skills by including Colbert in a light saber battle against nefarious evils.

George did himself proud and at show's end even battled Colbert mano a mano.

And George's "film" has a hilarious moment when Colbert and Jar Jar talk about politics. Take a look.

And of course, the big news about the internets this week was Google's stock purchase of YouTube. Some, like Atomic Tumor, worry about the course this will take and if it means the death of YouTube.

Since YouTube has recently signed agreements with Universal, Sony, BMG and others to use their materials, and since Google already has similar arrangements with other entertainment companies, I tend to think the average user will benefit from the deal and still be able to access tv and music clips and still upload and enjoy clips of chuckleheads who light their farts.

A interesting debate on the deal can be read at MetaFilter. What surprised me about the deal was that Google, who had enough cash to buy YouTube, decided instead to offer a stock deal. Not so good for current stockholders, great for YouTube's owners.

Also, viewing videos and internet trends can be tracked so well with this new combo, Google appears to have added a massive consumer habits database, which all the companies which hold copyright would dearly love to have. I'd say viral video marketing is going to rise faster than the floodwaters in New Orleans. The New Yorker has more on this ten-month old company.

Friday, October 13, 2006

When Bloggers Gather

What happens when five bloggers from both ends of Tennessee get together?

Amazing times, of course. I had much fun wining and dining with Newscoma, Squirrels on Snark, Juliepatchouli and The Editor. Which means there were often five conversations occurring at once. Strike that, make it five Fascinating conversations at once.

The Editor and I drove up together, and as we were making our way past the County Courthouse in downtown Knoxville, we were stopped at a traffic light and I see this fellow about 50 yards away and I thought "that guy looks like Harold Ford Jr.".

And as we drove past him - it was Harold Ford Jr. I was kinda pleased with myself for being able to recognize him at a distance, made me feel like my keen political senses were operating at a peak efficiency.

And of course, a fine omen of the approval of the Powers That Be for the impending mini-blogfest.

I think I shouted out as we drove past him something like "Harold! Woooooooo!!" to express my political affirmation.

Some highlights of the evening:

- While in the lounge of the hotel we met at, combined Blogging Forces made them to change the bad trapped-in-an-80s-aerobics-class music to jazz. A much needed improvement. Julie said she once worked in that hotel lounge and related an incident involving the purchase of some stereo speakers, which she put in her Ford Escort and which were quite quickly stolen!!

- The lounge was home to a weird collection of books - a novelization of the old TV teen soap opera "Paper Dolls," an action-adventure novelization of the Bobby Sherman TV show "Getting Together", and a comic book adaptation of Dracula by Nestor Redondo. I emphasize was home to such books. (And for the record, I was most interested in the Redondo book.)

- As we headed into Market Square, there were no raids on businesses by the DEA or ATF. That was a little disappointing for us.

- I learned Newscoma used to be called "Tick". Let her explain that one. And I did not know that the late Ann Richards used to date Ned McWherter!

- I learned Pat Summit is currently separated.

- It is good to be the lone male accompanying four women.

- Poop stories were told by one and all at various points in the evening.

- Each of us has been and continue to be frighteningly close to the Seats of Power in Politics, Government, Media, Sports and Entertainment.

- We concluded this blogging thing might catch on.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention some other happy news about a blogger -- Valley Grrrl is about to have a baby, sometime today I think. That will make The Editor an Aunt. Again. Say congats to both. And yeah, that means L.A. Barabbas will be a dad!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

On Being Groovy

So there's this dog here at the house, a bona fide canine, I mean. This said to distinguish the curious quality of Stray Dog which hovers about my particular person. Then there's my personal affinity with canines in general - but I digress.

The wee dog here is a mostly Sheltie dog, some other canine mixed in with it I guess, and she's about mid-sized and I realized a few years back I have known this one dog longer than any other dog in the span of my life. That milestone is also added to the appreciation I have for this particular dog's name, which is Groovy. So much fun to stand on the porch and yell out her name in the wee hours of the morning, calling her home. "Groooooooooooovvveeeeeeeee!!!"

I did not name her. I met her when she was almost a year old, and that was about 15 years ago, so her age is somewhere between 16 and 17 -- doing the mythic dog math means Groovy is 112 or older.

So Age itself hunkers about the poor creature of late, her hips corroded with arthritis and the extra weight she has place on her front legs now often leaves them slightly swollen, and she limps somewhat too. A year or so ago, she lost some control over her bowel movements --- you know what I mean - that ugly revenge Death takes on the Living. There usually are no messes, though, as she knows when action is imminent and she is well looked after in her home.

All those years in the past, the days and hours spent running and playing are dwindling away to days mostly spent sleeping - a walk in the yard nearly taxes her beyond her strength. I ponder on how long I should allow the Groovy One to suffer, and then she has a few days when she is fine - able to walk at least, run just a little. I can tell when her spirits are high and when she is dipping into pain, too.

She does take some pain medicine via the vet who cares for her and we add glucosamine supplements to her food.

But time is not on her side.

Truth be told, given the Stray Dog qualities of my life, I have only a few friends (other than my immediate family) with whom I have spent as much time. I am most thankful for them all -- But on many days, I prefer and have always preferred Groovy's company to almost any other life form on the planet.

Growing up, like bajillions of other humans, I have had pets and have buried them. It is never easy. And in the last 8 years, I have also attended the burials and passings of many of my family, so that the number of those who have populated my own life since birth are likewise dwindling.

So I am aware the passing and pain of one lone pup is barely a blip in the Universe of considerations of everyone and everything alive which exists.

I attempted to describe to a friend recently a certain mental image which has developed in my own muddled mind over the years as I (just as many others) try to accomadate an acceptance, an agreement with the spectre of Life's end. Again, to dredge up facts of my own past, I grew up with Death as a large presence -- my grandfather's farm was connected to a cemetery where he and my uncles worked to maintain the grounds and dig graves; my father, as a minister, ushered many families through times of Death; and I had a close childhood friend whose family home was the lone mortuary in the small town where I grew up.

So Death has always been in the edges and sometimes in the center of experiences.

With the recent demise of many in my family, along with an elderly and often sick mother and a few other elderly friends I help with household day-to-days, the particular mental image I have made might seem grim to some, but to me, it's more of an image of symbiosis.

One cannot be without the Other. Death and dying hover about each of us, like carrion birds, vulturous pets which as time passes begin to gnaw away at the very perch they require, to whittle away on us. In too many places one the planet, violent death and destruction are constants. So in context, living in this fortunate country is a wild and imagined luxury for many.

But here's the deal: Groovy is my friend and Death is replacing my prominence in her life - Age and Time grip each of us in a smothering hug which culminates in lifelessness.

For now, I assist the Groovy one as much as I can and am mindful that a day is swiftly rising in which a decision will have to be made, unless through some merciful moment, she simply fades while sleeping. I doubt that will happen - and it is a selfish thought, for my benefit but also for hers.

One day she'll look at me with eyes that ask for me to play Dr Kevorkian instead of fetch. I don't like that fact, but again, as I mentioned, I am forced by Time and Experience to be ... accomodating. It's like that line of Dickinson's poem which I have always liked -- "because I could not stop for Death, he kindly stopped for me."


As a writer (and a living creature, too) I so appreciate that particular word choice.

Both the creamy warm human center in me and the aforementioned Stray Dog-ness crave to Live as long as Groovy - to be 112 one day would be fine, as long as it did not happen at the end of a hose or on handfuls of dizzying medicines. If I were to reach that age, the year would be 2072, and in all my imaginings that part of my life would be in the early days of galactic human migrations. Given the state of humans in this year, 2006, I seriously doubt any such event is likely by 2072. Maybe by 2172. Maybe.

Humanity's taste for self-destruction which reigns so supreme in 2006 makes it more likely that 2072 will still be a time of Tribal Wars, as it is today.

Personally, I am glad to have no affinity for minds which see honor, glory or goodness in exploding or shooting other living things. Maybe those minds never had the simple joy of having a dog as a friend, maybe their minds were nutured in some holy fervor wherein Death and Killing are the (deeply misunderstood) avenue to moments of transendence.

Most days, for instance, I think the world's Tribal Leaders (and their fervent followers) have not even the tiniest grasp of what Life or what Death means. So it is no suprise to me they have no concept of what words like Freedom or Equality actually mean. Their non-creamy human centers must be instead bitter and barren plains, vast and endless. They and their followers must be swamped in such learned ignorance and greed for intangible and imaginary Power that they barely (if at all) touch the outer-most edges of Humanity

Again, to be more direct, it's that I treasure this rather simple problem of boy and dog and the progression of Time.

Within that parameter of Time, we are playing, or she is nuzzling my hand as I scratch her nose. Those millions of moments have more value than a flag or an anthem or a committee. Within that section of Time, Joy is the constant, and the end is barely a millisecond.

Like George Bailey in "It's A Wonderful Life", I know I am one of the wealthiest people on the planet.


I wrote the above about one month ago. Today, the Groovy one died, due to her failing health and our ardent wish for her suffering to end. Not an easy thing, but it was the right thing. She gave me that look late last night.

When I got to the animal hospital with her this afternoon, she waited in the truck while I spoke to the vet. An assistant asked me what color of fur she had (I have no idea why that was important) Before I could even think to answer, the words "She's golden" came out of my mouth. She is and always will be.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Your Vote = $10, More or Less

Vote buying scandals were reported widely in August, and I understand the TBI is investigating several allegations. In a story today from the Knoxville News Sentinel, a hearing on the matter in Union County was so garbled and absurd it could easily be a People's Court segment. Or maybe a weird mashup of Jerry Springer and Judge Judy with a little Kafka and a little Dukes of Hazzard all mixed together. I got a headache trying to follow it all.

When witnesses who had previously signed affidavits professing their votes were purchased for 10 bucks actually got on the stand, they began to claim a common woe - they were mentally ill and illiterate. The judge asked if everyone testifying was also incapable of voting too.

Charlie Cox,a Union County Commissioner accused of the vote buying in the election for 10 bucks a whack tells the KNS that is too low a price:

Later in the day, sitting in the bay of his body shop north of Maynardville, he said he's not concerned about the possibility of a criminal probe into the vote-buying allegations.

"I don't give a (expletive)," Cox said in a profanity-laced interview, adding: "I haven't done anything."

Cox said he'd given the Miller family money for years to help them out. Plus, he said, buying votes costs more than $10.

"I've never seen anybody buy a vote for $10," he said, "and I've been around a lot of elections."

It is a fascinating account of an election. And the judge did dismiss the case, even though the TBI is still investigating the events. But Cox is wrong about the price - it could just be equal to the value of a bag of pork rinds.

A case that has been unfolding over the course of this year in Appalachia has accounts of votes being purchased for 10 bucks and less - and yes, even pork rinds.

It is a very convoluted case to track through, but reports in the Kingsport Times-News do reveal one very clear scam - seizing and altering absentee ballots.

Also last week an editorial in The Tennessean had some startling statistics about voting fraud, noting:

Legal experts say most voter fraud occurs in absentee balloting, not covered by the new photo ID laws. Plaintiffs challenging the Arizona law have shown that only 238 of 2.7 million registered voters in the past 10 years have been noncitizens, and only four of them voted."

It truly shatters the myths about our process, that every vote counts. Seems as if some people hold pork rinds in higher esteem than the right to vote. Seems they hold the right to vote with something like contempt. But for all the modern equipment and no matter which state is involved, multiple problems continue to be reported -- and none of them would be solved with the proposed changes in voting IDs.

In Hamblen County, Judge James Beckner has been appointed to investigate challenges to the August election -- but I wonder if anyone will be investigating the absentee ballots along with alleged malfunctions in voting machines. Info on the case so far can be found here.

There is an expression that it isn't who votes that counts, but who counts the votes. But as best as I can find, even determining who actually said that is in much doubt.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Foley and Bush Chat, or Make Your Own Caption

Can't help but laugh when I see this photo.

The original caption for this reads

President Bush walks with Rep. Mark Foley, (R-Fla.) (L) after Hurricane Charlie in Florida in this August 15, 2004 file photo. A seamy Capitol Hill sex scandal is the latest bad news to deflate Republicans and leave them scrambling for political survival four weeks before elections that will decide whether they keep control of the U.S. Congress. REUTERS/Larry Downing"

The story is here. And it isn't a good one. (And who is surprised they were there to see Charlie?)

However, the one and only Tits McGee has found another notable photo to commemorate the Foley scandal. (um .... scroll down to the photo in the post)

Time to Arm and Train Teachers To Shoot?

School teachers should be allowed to carry concealed weapons while on the job, or so says one state legislator in Wisconsin.


To prevent or at least change the outcome of someone attacking students/faculty with a gun.

Since school property has already been deemed a "gun-free zone", it is amazing that armed killers somehow get their insane plans to work.

Republican Rep. Frank Lasee said he planned to introduce legislation that would allow school personnel to carry concealed weapons. He stressed that it would hinge on school staff members getting strict training on the use of the weapons, and he acknowledged he would have to work around a federal law that bans guns on school grounds."

Despsite recent events and some continued fears - statistically, kids are at their safest while in school. But hey, an Algebra or Geometry teacher might just be able to decide the right vectors and probabilities faster than any would-be attacker. And kids darn well better get that homework in on time.