Saturday, January 13, 2007

Media Reform Conference in Memphis

It may be called "public ariwaves" but the place most likely to be the source of "public views and opinons" is not on radio, television or newspapers -- it's on the internet.

This weekend in Memphis the National Conference on Media Reform is presenting a large amount of information and discussion about all types of media and what the public can do to demand a less corporate hold of "public airwaves". I hear it so often -- the public owns the nation's "airwaves", but do they really?

Newscoma is blogging live from the event with information and lots of pictures, and more info can be found here at Liberadio:

And what do the American people - who own the public airwaves, by the way - get in return? Too little news, too much baloney passed off as news. Too little quality entertainment, too many people eating bugs on reality TV. Too little local and regional music, too much brain-numbing national play-lists. Too little of America, too much of Wall Street and Madison Avenue. That’s what we get for half a trillion dollars. It’s one hell of a bad bargain, don’t you think?"

Friday, January 12, 2007

Camera Obscura - Bruce Campbell, Horace McCoy, Idiocracy

A Nashville native who went from fighter pilot to famous writer to bum to screenwriter gets introduced to you this week, and also in this whirlwind edition of movie news, the dumped-on and controversial comedy "Idiocracy" arrives on DVD and to start it all off, the legendary chin of actor Bruce Campbell.

Bruce continues his unique exploits in cinema and stardom with the following commercial for Old Spice. Look quick at the beginning and you can see a mighty chainsaw by the fireplace - wherever Bruce goes, Ash is close by. Groovy, baby.


The comedy/satire "Idiocracy" by filmmaker Mike Judge got shelved for two years by Fox, then they barely released the movie last August, pulled it out of theatres after a week or so, and now they have released it on DVD this week - with no commentaries or extras other than a few deleted scenes. Even the original poster for the movie has already become a collector's item.

Judge has been most patient with Fox's gross mishandling. They chopped the movie up some, added some unneeded narration, but all around the country, the movie is getting the praise it deserves. The story follows Army private Joe Bowers (Luke Wilson) who is placed in an experimental hibernation pod, along with a prostitute (Maya Rudolph) and an accident puts them out in an America 500 years from now - where Stupid is King and Joe stands out as the smartest man in the nation. The Washington Post writes:

Things go awry, and the two guinea pigs don't wake up for 500 years, by which time the country has become populated by porn-addicted rednecks and Uzi-toting gangstas; the English language has been replaced by a patois of "hillbilly, Valley Girl and inner-city slang." A trashed-out landscape that's part zombie film and part broken-down "Blade Runner," the America of "Idiocracy" has become one vast junk food-entertainment complex, where bread and circuses take the form of super-size burritos and monster truck rallies."

As with his previous film, "Office Space", expect a massive cult following to lift this movie out of obscurity.


As long as I've been writing about movies, I can always learn something new - even if the movie was one I thought I knew much about.

Such is the case with the brillant drama. "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" Set in a grim and brutal dance marathon in the 1930s, this 1969 movie by Sydney Pollack has always been a favorite of mine. Watching it again the other night on TCM, the movie has lost none of its visceral punches so I thought I should take advantage of this here internets deal and check on the writer - novelist/screenwriter Horace McCoy.

McCoy was born in Pegram, Tennessee, just outside of Nashville and deserves quite a bit of celebration as a writer of distinction. McCoy's novel of the dance marathon of death was based on his own script, but there were no takers. He published it as a novel in 1935 and Charlie Chaplin took the option to film the work - an effort that never saw completion. The book sold poorly in the U.S., but was hailed in Europe as a masterpiece and McCoy was ranked with writers like Hemingway and Faulkner.

McCoy had an amazing life and career. He left home at 16, became a bombardier and when his pilot was killed in mid-flight in 1918 took the controls, shot down an enemy plane and landed safely, despite his own wounds. Flying now as a pilot, he was wounded several more times by the time his military career ended, logging over 400 hours in the air.

Back in the U.S., he started writing for newspapers in Texas, and acting with the Dallas Little Theatre, running in the highest circles of society. He lost his fame and wealth, ending up as a hobo and odd-jobber (which led to his time as a bouncer for dance marathon in California and gave backgorund to his later novel). He was a pulp writer for Black Mask magazine, crafted dozens of action films in Hollywood (incudling some uncredited work on the original "King Kong") and penned the novel "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye" which became one of Jimmy Cagney's favorite roles.

There is much more to his life and you can read a fine biography of McCoy here, and his Hollywood career is noted here. I know I'm reading his books as soon as I am able to track down a few copies.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Oil Profits The Reason for New Iraq Strategy?

The most urgent priority for success in Iraq is security, especially in Baghdad." - President Bush, speech on Jan. 10, 2006

More security and more stability in Iraq has been emphasized in recent weeks, though I have noticed a specific reason why that is the goal currently-- a proposal to privatize oil production in Iraq.

In coming days, a proposal will be voted on by the Iraqi Council of Ministers which creates a new "hydrocarbon law" and gives Oil Giants like Shell, BP, and Exxon Mobil a real deal on production-sharing agreements - 75% of profits for an indefinite period of time and then 20% once they have recovered their investment costs. The 20% is more than twice the average of standard PSAs.

Some have been writing on this already and noting this thirst for oil has been a primary concern since before the U.S. military action in Iraq began:

This law has been in the works since the very beginning of the invasion - indeed, since months before the invasion, when the Bush administration brought in Phillip Carroll, former CEO of both Shell and Fluor, the politically-wired oil servicing firm, to devise "contingency plans" for divvying up Iraq's oil after the attack. Once the deed was done, Carroll was made head of the American "advisory committee" overseeing the oil industry of the conquered land, as Joshua Holland of has chronicled in two remarkable reports on the backroom maneuvering over Iraq's oil: "Bush's Petro-Cartel Almost Has Iraq's Oil" and "The US Takeover of Iraqi Oil."

"I see Plans within Plans."

Perhaps the current plan offered by the President on television last night will indeed bring a level of stability to the country of Iraq. And if this oil proposal is approved, then perhaps, in time, the benefits will trickle down to the average Iraqi.

Cynical as it may sound, it truly looks like the battle has been for business first, last and always.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Comedy Barn Hits YouTube

What happens when a regular old fellow from Memphis travels to Pigeon Forge for some entertainment? He steals the show, that's what. Read on for details

I have done my time working in, as we called it, Prison Forge. We called it that because of the unholy traffic mess each and every traveler must endure. I think it's the key to the growth in Sevier County - road-weary madness prompts many to just pull over and live in the county rather than try and find a way out.

There is nothing like the place. Many an entertainer has tried to produce constant shows for the endless line of tourists, and few have succeeded. One place that has been a staple for years is The Comedy Barn.

I can't say too much to deride the place - I have friends involved. But really, the Barn isn't the home of relentless or savage topical humor or regrettable tirades a la Michael Richards. It is what it is, and it's name is most appropriate.

Thanks to YouTube, one visitor shows you just how easy it is to steal the show there. The person who posted this says, yeah, that is my dad and that is his real laugh. The laugh is far, far better than the comedy routine the host of this bit is trying to present. The host gets points for giving the man a microphone but he should have just let the man and his laugh take the center stage and to heck with what was planned.

On to the video - and a sentence I never thought would appear on this page: Time for a video from The Comedy Barn.

Hannity Hatefest

It looks like Sean Hannity, talking head for Fox News, watched the puppet-populated movie "Team America: World Police" and thought it was a documentary.

Struggling for ratings and for attention, Hannity offered up what could best be called a hysteria-fueled feature on his program-- identifying and labeling people as an "Enemy of the State." Apparently, Hannity is a new "agent of the State". Unlike the humorous segments on Keith Olbermann's show, "Worst Person in the World," Hannity is claiming anyone not a cheerleader for the neo-cons is a criminal. He isn't drinking the kool-aid of lunacy, he's chugging it down like a frat boy at a homecoming party beerfest.

What nefarious person does Hannity pick as his first "enemy"? Why, it's actor Sean Penn. Sean Penn?? Others featured in his li'l hatefest segment (which you can see here) include Barbara Streisand and Alec Baldwin. Like I said, it's as if he watched "Team America: World Police" and thought it was a documentary.

Certainly the nation has enemies - they attacked us on 9-11, Sean. They aren't American entertainers. In fact, Sean affixes this crude label of enemy to Penn because Penn said naughty things about Sean.

Shouldn't his segment be called "Enemy of the Hannity"?

(from "Team America" - click to embiggen)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Didn't We Already Win?

Some views on the eve of the President's planned prime-time special - What's Next In Iraq?

On one hand, the dubious ideas of The Iraq Study Group did actually include meetings with the U.S. military and their take on "surges" or other increases in troops in Iraq. They thought it was a bad idea.

On the other hand, the other front in the ground war - Afghanistan. Military leaders there say taking troops from Afghanistan and placing them in Iraq will bring more trouble to Afghanistan.

On the other, other hand - I tend to agree with R. Neal's take via KnoxViews. Since the administration has already proclaimed "Mission Accomplished" then why not re-assert that claim and go home with victory in hand?

It looks like "mission accomplished" to me. No Saddam. No WMD. The only terrorists are waging civil war against each other. The only Americans threatened by Iraq are the American soldiers Bush put in harms way by sending them to Iraq."

My nearly-a-Knox-native-brother and I talked about this very thing last fall, prior to Saddam's execution. Since the Bushies have been successful at making the idea of "liberty" mean "national security" then why can't they make "victory" mean whatever they want?

Ramsey New Lt. Governor

For this first time since 1971, the state has a new Lt. Governor. In a deeply contentious vote and a bitter battle for power, Senator Ron Ramsey was voted into that slot today. Kleinheider has been closely following the power struggles at Volunteer Voters.

Wilder's Wiki has already been changed (though the site notes the info available is "unverified").

In a day or so, many will write about the rocky history of Wilder, who has Speaker of the Senate for so long he seemed invincible. But no one is invincible in politics - ever. 36 years is certainly a long time to hold that office, but it is not forever. I certainly welcome the change and the call to remove Wilder has been rather deafening in the last few months.

With Ramsey now in that slot and the GOP in firm control of the Senate, the real question of how Ramsey will lead will take time to be answered. One thing is certan - Wilder was often termed a bi-partisan senator. That is not a word anyone has ever used for Ramsey. Will he lead or just stand in the way of any legislation not created by the GOP?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Happy Elvismas!

Thanks to a timely reminder from one of the Wonder Triplets (that means you, Tits and check out her excellent post here) I still have time to wedge in a wee bit of celebration of The King's birthday.

This is the opening from his 1968 TV special and blends two songs, "Trouble" and "Guitar Man". And of course, it includes the giant multi-story, light-up letters that spell E-L-V-I-S.

Denying the Record on Iraq

Amnesia has struck numerous right-wing pundits and online gurus who used to echo the many and ever-changing talking points about war in Iraq via the White House. The reality of a confused strategy and a growing civil war has prompted them to forget they used to champion the rush into the middle east with U.S. military. The last election cycle in 2006 seems to have magically transformed their opinons.

It's fine to change your mind about the war, given the current state of affairs. Pretending you never supported the war is shameful. Yet, some have been doing just that, as noted by Glenn Greenwald:

All of these self-proclaimed super-patriots who spent the last three years shrieking that anyone who criticizes the war is a friend of the terrorists are now being forced to admit that the war is unwinnable. But rather than acknowledging their reversal, they seek to erase the public record, both to salvage their reputations and to obscure the intensity of their attacks against those who were right. Such vitriol against critics muted debate in the first place and ensured that we stayed in Iraq, pretending all along that things were going great."

This week the President is supposed to promote a "new approach" in Iraq. Given this administration's track record of stubborn denials of reality and the tendency to stubbornly act as the Lone Ranger, I expect little of use to be offered. While this administration was a cheerleader for the Rapid Response philosophy from the Pentagon, they seem unable to grasp the concepts of "rapid" and "response".