Saturday, November 18, 2006

Camera Obscura - Faulkner's Vampire; Bond's Revival

A full length screenplay by William Faulkner was discovered a few years ago which is his only unproduced and still complete screenplay. And it's a vampire movie.

Lee Caplin found the script some years back, and is now pitching the project around Hollywood. The original was set in an unnamed Eastern Europe location, but the idea now is to set it in the Deep South. More details can be found at this link.


This weekend also brings the return on the creation of writer Ian Fleming, a somewhat violent and eccentric spy named James Bond. The actor in the lead is Daniel Craig - a fine choice given his acting chops in movies like the Tarantino-like crime thriller "Layer Cake." And the story this time is based -- make that loosely based -- on the novel "Casino Royale."

Observers have cheered the movie for closely following Fleming's story ... but there are some significant alterations which make me irritable. The novel - and Bond's assignment - are quite specific. He is sent to challenge another spy/terrorist who goes by the name Le Chiffre in Monte Carlo at the baccarat table. Yet the movie changes the game to a high stakes Texas Hold-Em game.

Sorry, but Bond playing Texas Hold-Em is like Bond chugging a bottle of wine while eating a double bacon cheeseburger. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Fleming's books are tight and compact thrillers, barely 200 pages each. Bond is brutal, yes, and something of a loose cannon. And there has only been one occurrence by my reckoning of the movies following the books closely and that's the first film, "Dr. No."

Don't get me wrong - I like the Bond films, with the exceptions of those with Roger Moore who is more Austin Powers than James Bond. And one I like very much is "You Only Live Twice" yet ever since that film, producers have crafted a series of wildly improbable stunts and goofy gadgets and clever title songs. Fleming's stories for the most part were abandoned.

I plan to see this new Bond within the next few days, but smart money says the most faithful presentation of Fleming's work can be found in "Dr. No."

A side note: the trippy weird version of "Casino Royale" from the 1960s is entertaining as a time capsule only, but a bitter rivalry between actors takes place between Peter Sellers (as Bond) and Orson Welles (as Le Chiffre). The refused to be on set together and each shot their "confrontation" separately and film editors had to do the rest.


Every movie trailer you can think of for upcoming films is here. Be prepared to spend quite a bit of time saying things like "oooh!! this looks great" and "awww, yer kidding me!"

Friday, November 17, 2006


Grim news today from Oak Ridge blogger AT, about his wife who has been so critically ill.

I offer my deepest sympathies to AT and his family, as do so many thousands of others who have been reading AT's accounts of what has been happening for the last few weeks.

Her illness arrived without warning and has been truly devastating. None of it seems fair or right

Words seem a feeble thing right now.

But the hopes and wishes and prayers from so many, I trust, do offer a sense that this troubled time is being shared by friends and strangers alike. We all send you and your family much love and concern.

A memorial fund has been set up for the Atomic Tumor family. To donate, send a check to: Barbara J. Kilpatrick Memorial Fund C/O ORNL Federal Credit Union P.O.Box 365 Oak Ridge, TN 37831.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Carmina Burana on Banjo?

I know the first time I heard the music from the Carmina Burana Fantasy it was in the 1981 movie "Excalibur." I quoted the lines from that movie for days and weeks, but it was the rousing score of the music I recall the most.

It's been a part of many movies - the opening scene to "Jackass: The Movie", "Natural Born Killers," and even in "South Park".

It's been used to sell products like Old Spice, Reebok, Pringles and Volkswagen.

But I've never heard it the way banjo player Sandy Bull has put it together.

Mayor Injured, Bear Killed

I'm not sure if it's something in the air or what. Tennessee officials are packing some heat and they aren't afraid to use it.

Seems that elected officials are not to be messed with. First we had Knox County Commissioner "Lumpy" taking down an would-be robber, (and be sure to check out the accused's MySpace page).

Then State Senator Tim Burchett says he caught a group of youngsters during a break-in and held them at gunpoint, though he did offer them chocolate chip cookies.

And Cocke County Mayor Iliff McMahan, out on a bear hunt on Monday, fell and injured his leg and was somehow still able to take out a bear. The Newport Plain Talk reports:

The next thing I knew, there was something big and black coming at me. I said, 'Oh heck,' and shot the bear twice, killing the animal as it was about 10 feet away." McMahan, who says he is not a big hunter, said the 337-pound black bear was easily the largest bear he had shot. The mayor had to basically crawl his way out of the woods since the other members had to tend to the dogs and the dead bear who were shot by the club on Monday. Negotiations are under way in the McMahan household as to the final resting place for the prize hunting trophy."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Horrorfest Lands In East Tennessee

A weekend of macabre movies arrives this coming weekend - and the shocking truth that the mini-festival of horrors is playing in Morristown is .... did I say shocking? Well, that's me. Shocked and awed. Score two points (or is it eight?) as the After Dark Horrorfest: 8 Films To Die For will be presented at Paradigm Cinemas.

Part of me is convinced not all 8 films will be here, or that the showtimes won't allow me to see all of them, or some bad thing will happen to otherwise shortchange this horror fan. The fest is marketed as a collection of movies too graphic and ghoulish and disturbing for general audiences, but hey, they are being released to theatres and not right to DVD.

The movies are playing all over the state and the nation. For a full list of theatres and movies, you can check out the official website. Apparently no bulk tickets to all the movies are available, you'll have to pay for each one. Suck.

The movies are a broad mix of low budgets and large, some stars are featured, many are newcomers. How broad is the range? Well, there's the new movie from J-Horror icon, Takashi Shimizu, who created the "Grudge" series and a new funny/scary flick called Snoop Dog's Hood of Horror.

You can go to this YouTube link for a page with a preview to each of the movies. Previews are also on the Horrorfest web page

The Paradigm Cinemas website is here, but sorry, no tickets online.

Otherwise, please allow me to say "Woot!!"

Tax Relief for Elderly A Tall Order

Voters across the state said Yes in huge numbers to allowing for a change in the tax laws and provide some limits for senior citizens regarding property taxes. Today's Tennessean editorial on the topic says Nashville should lead the way in this change:

So it is not surprising that (Mayor Bill) Purcell would react quickly to the opportunity again to support such relief. In his letter to council members last week, Purcell described the effort as a way to help seniors "live out their lives in dignity in the homes where they raised their families and created the neighborhoods that bind our city together."

As lawmakers consider tax relief for seniors, which is highly popular, they must do so with the knowledge that it will mean other sources of revenue will have to bear more of the burden. Few people will argue with property tax relief for the elderly, but the trick will be in finding ways to make up the difference. So the effort must be handled carefully."

The devil is truly in the details for this measure.

The approved amendment states that cities and counties can enact the change, which could easily create mass confusion - what if the state's 95 counties create 95 different changes in the tax structure? And if cities can likewise draft their own laws, how many different tax laws will be created?

The approved amendment states that cities and counties can enact the change, which could easily create mass confusion - what if the state's 95 counties create 95 different changes in the tax structure? And if cities can likewise draft their own laws, how many different tax laws will be created? And as I understand the change, the General Assembly must first decide how much senior citizens can earn to even be eligible for a tax freeze.

The fact is no county or city is obligated to enact any changes. State agencies which advise cities and counties are certain to push for uniform laws, but the state's communities seldom act in agreement on anything.

This was a poorly conceived amendment, requiring zero compliance. The ballots themselves had errors in the wording of the change and "corrections" to the ballot wording were nearly impossible to find on election day - the polling place I went to had voting machines on one side of the room and the corrected wording for the ballot measure were posted on the opposite side of that room. As I understood it, the change in wording was supposed to be posted on the voting machines. That just did not happen at each polling location.

The size of the senior citizen population nationwide is going to grow by huge numbers within the decade and those in charge of drafting future tax rates are keenly aware of the coming changes.

I would expect changes in tax rates will be very very slow to emerge. I'm sure special committees to investigate the issue will be created and their eventual reports will arrive in some distant future. Glaciers will move quicker than any change in the tax laws.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Keep The Watchdog Alive

An excellent example of bipartisan efforts working to the benefit of all taxpayers and to insure that reconstruction programs in Iraq are effective has been provided by Republican Senator Susan Collins and Democrat Senator Russ Feingold.

The lawmakers are intent on keeping alive the special Inspector General's program to track billions of dollars which Republicans in the House tried to kill. It makes no sense, as both senators argued today, to stop such a highly productive and much needed oversight program.

Sen. Collins says:

We must keep the watchdog on the job," Collins said. "It is inconceivable that we would remove this aggressive oversight while the American taxpayer is still spending billions of dollars on Iraq reconstruction projects.

The SIGR site details how vital their work has been, how much work remains and clearly deserves to be allowed to complete it's task. Only those seeking to defraud taxpayers would want to see this program end.

But You've Been Murdered!!

Not a good day when you're lying handcuffed on the deck of your own home and deputies tell you that you've been murdered.

Yet, that's what happened according to one Cocke County couple, who have filed a $12 million lawsuit against the deputies and the sheriff's department. They also state in their lawsuit that officers provided no warrant either.

The press report also has fascinating details of the suit:

The Lovells allege in their lawsuit that Cocke County Sheriff's Dep. David Parton, Sgt. Armando Fontes, and Lt. Doug Atkins attempted to use a large landscape timber to break down the door to their residence, located at 180 Solitaire Way, then entered the residence with guns drawn, including an assault rifle. The lawsuit contends that the Lovells were forced to lie on the front deck, while scantily clad, and that Jean Lovell was tackled and handled roughly by Fontes in the process. The Lovells also contend that, when they asked why the action was being taken, Jean Lovell was told that, "You're the one who was supposed to have been murdered ...."
Alternatively, if there existed a valid reason to search for a victim and/or a perpetrator, it is shown to the court that the alleged victim and/or perpetrator were not of a size sufficient that they could fit inside a kitchen drawer, or a bathroom drawer, or a drawer in a piece of furniture. "In short, there was no valid reason to rummage through plaintiffs' personal effects," stated the lawsuit."

I suppose saying "I'm not dead!!" just isn't proof.

UPDATE: I mentioned it in the comments section in this post, but here is the link to the LA Times story on Cocke County, which, naturally, local officials did not look kindly on.

Monday, November 13, 2006

PS3 vs Wii vs XBox 360

The real battle for the next few months won't just be a policy debate in Washington, DC.

From coast to coast and around the world, the battle is about to begin for the minds of young and old alike as crazed consumers begin measuring the wins and losses between the three new videogame consoles - PlayStation 3, Wii and XBox 360. Billions of dollars are at stake.

I know in the gaming community I'm about three days older than dirt. I got addicted early in life, using electronic stimulants like those found on a Commodore 64, the Atari system, and to further reveal my age ... pinball machines.

I still use my ever-reliable PS2, and yes, I'm still playing ancient games like HotShots Golf and Star Wars Battlefront. (I once considered including the fact that I completed God of War and Max Payne 1 and 2 on job applications under Accomplishments.) But, I faithfully watch the most important gaming overview show ever period and amen, and that's X-Play with Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb. I've suffered hand cramps and even missed work a few times lost in button-mashing madness, powered by Doritos and Mountain Dew. And yet I am fully aware that on the Gamers Scale, I barely rate a 3 out of 10 for hip and ultimate gamer.

With Christmas approaching, the stores will be feverishly attempting to keep these competing consoles stocked. But which to buy??

Engadget has an exhaustive round-up of the pros and cons on each system.

And while I really enjoy PlayStation most, I am fascinated by the Wii - wireless controllers where arm and hand movements control the events in the game -- I say "Woot!!"