Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Naked Head of Britney

Using this as the lead story in a newscast is not exactly journalism, but KABC did lead with this yesterday with their report that Britney Spears shaved her head and then went for a tattoo. If you wish, you can view their report here.

It made me think of that lawyer who went crazy and shaved his head in the movie "...And Justice For All," though everyone in that movie went crazy. I am no fan of Spears, but she has my sympathies as the fame-crazy world is obviously chewing her up most fiercely. As writer John Updike once said, "Fame is a mask that eats the face." It eats hair, too, apparently.

Poor kid needs some bona-fide friends who can urge her to stay out of the public eye and just try being a non-famous human for a few months.

Fame-frenzy has been the rage this week, in the wake of the Anna Nicole Smith death-custody battle-who'll inherit the money lunacy. I know that "news" about sex and money get ratings. Duh. But for every minute of "news" taken by this story is yet another minute devoid of content about important events which impact millions of Americans. For instance, despite the pundit blather about the House resolution stating the Bush plan in Iraq is bad policy, how much coverage has actually been provided to explore the status of the war, or reconstruction?

Other than a few blogs, such as Salem's Lots, there was precious little major media coverage of the corporate profiteering and contract fraud for Iraq, to the tune of $10 billion dollars. Imagine the level of scrutiny a week's worth of round-the-clock reporting would bring to that story. Crimes such as these might actually get punished and intense attention might even prevent future frauds which destroy more U.S. efforts in Iraq than an army of insurgents and their IEDs.

The vivid glare off the bald head of Fame can obscure much that is important.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Camera Obscura - Lynch Coffee; 'The Fly' Opera; Abrams Directs 'Dark Tower'

Tucked inside a recent interview with David Lynch is the news that should make his fans smile and their heartbeats increase. The interview notes that he's got his own brand of coffee on the way. "Black as midnight on a moonless night" however is not how he likes his own brew - he says he drinks about 20 cups a day, but they aren't all espresso. Read the interview here.


Director David Cronenberg and longtime musical collaborator Howard Shore have announced they are creating a new opera based on Cronenberg's movie "The Fly." Reports say the opera should premiere in Paris next year.


Also just announced -- J.J. Abrams of "Lost" fame has another project in the works, this time making a screen version of the multi-part book series "The Dark Tower" by Stephen King. Still to be decided is if the project will be a feature film or a television mini-series.


Grindhouse movie theatres may be long gone, but a new project from Quentin Trantino and Robert Rodriguez celebrates the days of cheesy exploitation movies, bizarre plots and characters, and white-hot action in a mini-double feature called "Grindhouse". The movies, "Planet Terror" and "Death Proof", will also include previews and attractions for other mythical grindhouse fare directed by a slew of famous directors.

While there were few of the grungy movie houses in Tennessee, we could always count on finding the truly low-budget offbeat movies in a host of drive-in theaters, which have also sadly faded from the American landscape.

Confused by what a grindhouse was/is? The brand new trailer explains it all. And yes, that it an automatic rifle made into a leg.


Finally, something a bit more peaceful and relaxing. Meet Nora the cat, who plays the piano so well, she may be a reincarnation of some famous player of the past. She sure seems to have an ear (a furry one) for making music.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Great Pics From the Mountains

Sunshine and snow made for a memorable day in the mountains yesterday.

Sande sent along some pics she took around Tellico Plains, and pretty much the same kind of sights were visible yesterday when I was in Cosby. (Check out her blog for more photos.)

Angry Father of the Angry Talk Show

"Go gargle with razor blades!"

Such was the typical rant from Joe Pyne, a TV and radio personality who has been credited as being the Father of the Conservative Talk Show. Pyne's TV career ran from 1954 to 1969, and he died in 1970 from cancer.

A fascinating account of his tactics, style and confrontational hijnks is detailed in this report from the retro website TV Party!.

Some samples of his methods and madness:

Life magazine commented, "His manner is that of a barroom tough who invites his quarry to pull up a chair and sit down. Five minutes later, the poor lummox is apt to feel like he has been slapped into a corner with his tie ripped off."

After Joe got in his licks, he would turn to 'the dock' to give individuals from the now-outraged crowd their chance to grill the guests - and fling their own pious put-downs. Pyne was unapologetic about his approach, "I'm not a nice guy, and I don't want to be. I have no respect for anyone who would come on my show."

And a semi-legendary word battle between himself and Frank Zappa:

"So I guess your long hair makes you a woman," said Pyne.

Zappa responded with "So I guess your wooden leg makes you a table."

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Campfield Targets Women?

What could be the point behind Knoxville's State Representative Stacey Campfield's proposed bill to require death certificates for abortions performed in Tennessee?

Campfield says in the KNS report:

All these people who say they are pro-life - at least we would see how many lives are being ended out there by abortions," Campfield said. ..."Hopefully we'll be able to get a little information out of this."

The effort here seems geared to gaining information - the private information of patients who have the procedure. And the statistics on all procedures are already provided to the state.

Tennessee law already requires abortions to be reported to the Office of Vital Records, though the identities of women having abortions are not included in the reports. Death certificates require identifying information like Social Security numbers."

Why not some legislation to require that the men who are the partners in the creation of a pregnancy be identified? Is Campfield, who often files divisive and headline-grabbing legislation, trying to isolate women as potential criminals?

Personally, I see little point in Campfield's actions other than stirring up the emotions of emotional voters and getting media attention for himself. In that job, he is usually successful.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Ugly Truth in Iraq

It's perplexing, some might even say beyond belief, how some members in Congress remain so disconnected from the ugly reality of the war in Iraq. Fearful members of Congress have argued that approving a resolution, even a non-binding one, opposing the president's latest plan will "send the wrong message that America is divided on the war." Even though we obviously are divided on Iraq.

A CBS poll says:

A new CBS News poll shows that while most Americans (63 percent) are opposed to sending more troops to Iraq, they are evenly split over whether Congress should pass a nonbinding resolution against the president's plan: 44 percent said they'd like to see it passed, 45 percent are against it."

Any conversation in America today - perhaps at the workplace, among friends or on the internet - which brings attention to the war clearly shows one vivid aspect: the population is divided on this war. So debating the status of the current policies and the decisions to be made from now on has already been endorsed by voters - that was made clear in the November 2006 elections.

And today a letter from conservative leaders John Shadegg (R- AZ) and Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) seems to privately affirm that debate itself highlights the real lack of progress and success in Iraq:

"If we let the Democrats force us into a debate on the surge or the current situation in Iraq, we lose."

Also of note is this question in the letter:

"Join us in asking our Democratic colleauges the essential question: If we do not defeat radical Islam in Iraq, then where will we do so?"

That question is truly central to the conflicts in the middle east, so perhaps debate next needs to shift to how we join in and win a religious war, since that is at the heart of the civil warfare in Iraq.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Erwin Elephant Hanging Hits The Stage

It's an amazing story from the history of Tennessee - an elephant named Mary charged with murder, convicted and then hung from a crane. Brittney at NiT today has a YouTube video about a new play about this event, penned by a Nashville writer and staged by the People's Branch Theatre in March.

It's a story rife with legend and myth but the fact remains the elephant was tried and convicted and hung by the neck.

It also reminds me of yet another of those Personally Embarassing Moments from the Past.

Back in college at ETSU I had a Basic Speech class and one of the first assignments was to write an 8 to 10 minute humorous speech. I had just learned of what happened in Erwin back in 1916 and decided the tragedy was perfect for a humorous speech. (yeah, now I see the lack of logic in my plan.)

I decided to write a speech lampooning the entire event, using as a premise that the elephant was really a member of a secret terrorist organization called the PLO - Pachyderm Liberation Organization. I remember writing a (what seemed to me) long and funny account of this organization, angry elephants and bizarre characters.

So on the day of my speech, convinced of my brilliant comedic ideas, I volunteered to be the first to give an example of humorous writing. Within seconds, my "best material" was offered up and I glanced around the room waiting for a single glimmer of laughter. I got zip, nada, nothing. I quickly continued, again, quite sure this was comedy gold I was offering -- and got more nothing. I even sensed a bit of anger from the professor of the class.

My speech became a two-minute-oh-god-let-me-just-finish-the-thing affair and I ran back to my seat as fast as I could, wondering if my bright-red face might actually explode from shame.

Got an F for that speech. Not funny and too short, said the professor.

Being a witless freshman, my approach to resolving this was to never, ever go to that class again. I did however, appear in the professor's office on the next to last day of class and begged for an Incomplete.

"Oh, you," he said when I arrived.

He heard my plea, had mercy and did give me that Incomplete on one condition. He said he was teaching a summer course on Politics and Media, and needed more students in the class in order to get the amount of pay he wanted from the administration.

"Enroll and attend this summer course and I'll give you the same grade for both classes," was his offer. I saw it for Extreme Mercy and embraced the deal.

That class had no tests, no textbook and was mostly a one night a week deal where myself and others in debt to the professor would gather and talk about what we had seen on TV that week that might be politically oriented. He often dismissed the class after 10 or 15 miinutes and said the class could move, if anyone desired, to his favorite bar. I was too frightend to dabble with our deal and he kinda scared me so I never went with other classmates to the bar.

But I got an A in both classes.

So in many ways, Mary the elephant and her demise was the beginning of my political education.

Who Is Congressman Davis Working For?

I guess it isn't news when a congressman grossly distorts the facts or even lies about events as he seeks to please his masters.

But the recent comments and distortions of fact by 1st District Congressman David Davis were printed as fact and never challenged by the press in a report from the Kingsport Times News. Why would the newspaper ignore realities?

Here are some comments as reported by the KTN on Feb 10, 2007 :

Some of the things that come across from the (Democratic) majority party sound very good on a bumper strip - providing prescription drugs for everyone, raising people's payroll, becoming less dependent on foreign oil, ... but you've got to look at the reality of each one of those pieces of legislation," Davis said.

Davis told chamber members "don't be fooled" when Democrats go on national television and claim credit for raising America's minimum wage."

Ah, but the Congress did vote and approve all those agenda items. How awful. Approving increases in the minimum wage, as more than half the states in the nation have, is an action that has improved business growth and job growth in those states.

Davis was also critical of Pelosi using a government plane to fly back to her West Coast congressional district from Washington.

"We are starting to see that arrogance coming out of Washington," said Davis. "I don't think people voted for change where you have a speaker of the House who wants a plane that holds 45 people and costs $22,000 an hour to fly cross-country. Most people in the 1st District, after four hours of flying that plane, could pay off their home. ... I think the American people will hold that type of arrogance accountable in the next election."

Davis says this even though the White House had already said this is a non-issue, that the Speaker of the House is required to have more security as a result of changes after 9-11, and that the Speaker did not make the request for the plane. But what do facts matter.

And notice that Davis ignores the fact that workers in his District earn less than national and state averages. It's as if he prefers that your income remain low. Does he announce any effort on his part to improve the earning power of those in his own District? No. He's just mouthing typical Hate-The-Democrat rhetoric.

Davis also called for Bush to pardon two Border Patrol agents who pursued and shot a Mexican drug smuggler ..."

Another hot-button issue, but based on a lot of false assumptions. While hysteria surrounds this issue, even the Wall Street Journal notes that crimes were committed by these border agents and that it was a Texas jury which convicted these men.

Agents Ramos and Compean were guarding the Mexican border near El Paso, Texas, on Feb. 17, 2005, when they encountered a van driven by Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila. When the driver saw the agents he sped off, eventually abandoning the vehicle and fleeing toward the border on foot. At one point, Aldrete-Davila stopped running and raised his empty hands to surrender. But when the first border agent to approach him stumbled, Aldrete-Davila took off again toward the Rio Grande.

At this point, Agents Ramos and Compean opened fire, shooting at the back of a suspect who they knew was unarmed. They fired 14 rounds in all--Agent Compean even paused to reload--finally hitting Aldrete-Davila in the buttocks. The suspect was wounded but still managed to make it across the border and escape.

It later was determined that Aldrete-Davila was in the country illegally and smuggling drugs. Nearly 750 pounds of marijuana were found in the van. But Ramos and Compean didn't know the suspect's immigration status when they shot him. Nor did they know the contents of the vehicle he was driving. What the agents did know is that they had broken any number of border patrol policies.

So Compean and another agent returned to the scene to gather shell casings and discard them in a drainage ditch. Compean and Ramos, who'd been disciplined for past conduct unbecoming a federal officer, then filed a false report. The only reason their cover-up didn't succeed is because an honest border agent who learned of the shooting eventually reported it.

After a trial lasting nearly three weeks, a federal jury in El Paso convicted both agents on charges including assault with a deadly weapon and obstruction of justice. As Johnny Sutton, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas, put it: "The simple truth of this case is that former Agents Compean and Ramos shot 15 times at an unarmed man who was running away from them and posed no threat. They lied about what happened, covered up the shooting, conspired to destroy the evidence and then proceeded to write up and file a false report."

Too bad Davis doesn't read the news, opting instead for following someone else's talking points. Here's to hoping the congressman starts to address issues and needs of the First District.