Friday, March 16, 2007

Camera Obscura - My Cat Does The Reviews Today

I can hear the cat snoring rather loudly as she sleeps away this cool afternoon and I sit here pecking away at the keyboard. The sound is most seductive, though oddly loud for such a wee critter. I have never, ever heard a cat snore prior to this cat. What might a cat dream about? I'm going to guess the dreams are about movies, spy movies in fact. Sneaky-peteing about on soft cat feet, intense focus, and a cold-blooded detachment seem exactly right for cat and spy.

This week the cat and I watched the latest James Bond film, "Casino Royale." We both agreed that it was the best Bond movie since Sean Connery played the British agent and was a fine adaptation of Ian Fleming's book and his dark-hearted hero.

In the books, and in the first few films with Connery, Bond is not a nice person. He's deceptive and cruel, a bit hedonistic and given to petty acts of revenge. And he enjoys that whole "license to kill" aspect of his job. All those elements are expertly played by Daniel Craig, who was born in 1968, long after Connery broke out in a series of hit movies.

One slightly funny thing the cat and I noticed about this new Bond movie -- a lack of high-tech gadgets in this movie (thank god for that) with one exception. There's a scene about two-thirds through the movie where Bond has to dash to his car and hook himself up to a defibrillator. I think that is most appropriate for a character some 50-plus years old.

There was no snoring from the cat during this movie, which we both recommend for viewing. And while I have mentioned it before, I'm going to mention it again. A movie worth seeking out which also stars Craig is "Layer Cake." He plays a criminal who is caught in a maze of low-rent thugs and twisted schemes, and shows off the acting chops he used with great success as Bond.

On the other hand, the cat DID snore through two pitiful movies I watched on cable this week. The horror movie "Stay Alive" and the new Steve Martin version of "The Pink Panther." Both were just awful. However the cat did wake up for one scene in the new Panther movie, where Martin is attempting to take lessons from a dialect coach so he can speak English. The phrase "I would like to buy a hamburger" has never been funnier.

Large amounts of cat-hisses are evident if by some error the Fox network is onscreen when "American Idol" airs. Catty and sneaky behavior, however, are evident at the web site "Vote For The Worst," which has for the last few years urged readers to call in and vote for the worst Idol contestants. This week, they claimed they were responsible for keeping the untalented competitor named Sanjaya on the show.

I will place a phone at the cat's disposal next week when voting is offered should she wish to dial in and vote for the worst contestant. Well, I may help her dial just a little bit.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Bush Veto Ahead for Information Access?

A series of bills aimed at improving access to public records was overwhelmingly approved by representatives in Washington, D.C. yesterday.

However President Bush has vowed to veto the measures. Welcome to Sunshine Week 2007.

The Gonzales Dance

Juggling language and side-stepping reality, the nation's Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is under withering heat for a first-of-its-kind firing of US attorneys.

It's unique since it's the first time the firings and replacements have occurred under the rules of The Patriot Act - which means the Senate does not have to confirm any choices made. Not that any emergency existed to invoke the Patriot Act. It was just handy to avoid Congress.

Also worth noting is how much Gonzales has actively misled the public and congress about the mass firings. It's gone from an episode of "good management" to a mistake-filled process. In January of this year Gonzales said:

That fact that that happens quite frankly some people should view that as a sign of good management. What we do is make an evaluation about the performance of individuals and I have a responsibiity that we have the best possible people in that position.

"I would never ever make a change in a United States attorney position for political reasons or that in any way would jeopardize an ongoing investigation," Gonzales said. "I just would not do it."

This week he claimed a new stance on the firings:

Like every CEO of every major organization, I am responsible for what happens at the Department of Justice. I acknowledge that mistakes were made here. I accept that responsibility and my pledge to the American people is to find out what went wrong here, to assess accountability, and to make improvements so that the mistakes in this instance do not occur again in the future."

The President says he was aware of complaints about attorneys, but knew no names or specifics, even though his staff was actively campaigning for firing all the previous attorneys he himself approved in his first term. Bush simply says the explanation was mishandled, but the actions themselves were just fine.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Vampire Candidate and The Catfish Resolution

Some stories are so bizarre they defy description. Just about every sentence of this story is so weird you'd think it was made up by the staff writers at Weekly World News. But nooooooo. The British paper reports that America's (so far) only vampire candidate, Jonathon "The Impaler" Sharkey for president is being investigated for threatening to impale current President Bush --

But a legal expert is unsure if a case could be made against The Impaler. 'Under the First Amendment, what it boils down to here is whether or not he's a vampire who wants to impale the president,' law professor Neil Richards of Washington University in St. Louis told the Chronicle.

'I guess the question is, if he's a vampire, why is he the one staking people? Shouldn't he want to bite the president and feed on him?' added Richards, describing these questions as 'perhaps further evidence that this is not a true threat."

The whole story (every sentence will make your jaw drop) is here. The vampire is 42 years old and his wife, Spree, is 19. Just ... wow. All it needs is a reference to Bigfoot and a UFO.

In a related bit of strangeness, another story, this one with a much happier ending. I mentioned a few days back that a woman was being sought for attacking a waitress with a catfish dinner. They found the woman, but the waitress and the restaraunt decided not to file charges against her:

We've had so much publicity over this stuff, they've called us from everywhere," Jenkins told the Times-News Thursday afternoon. "Louisiana, California, ‘The "Jerry Springer Show' - and Channel 5 sat up here for eight hours the other day. It's all over the Internet everywhere.

"We just told them (the sheriff's office) to tell her she wasn't welcome anymore. It's all you can eat, not all you can carry."

I know it's only Tuesday, but surely there won't be any stranger stories this week .... or at least I hope that's true.

"Morristown" The Movie

“We don’t make anything in this country anymore. If they closed the ports, we’d be naked and barefoot.”
- Shirley Reinhardt, former GE worker, Morristown, TN

The quote comes from a new documentary about Morristown and immigration, currently making the rounds at festivals and is also now available on DVD. Filmmaker Anne Lewis spent years on the project, which examines how immigration has changed the city and the city has changed the immigrants.

Lewis began her career as an associate director on the Oscar-winning "Harlan County U.S.A." and has been actively exploriing the lives and the worlds of working men and women ever since. Some info about her is here and here, where she explains her creative vision as a documentary filmmaker.

The movie, "Morristown" is described as:

Working-class people in Mexico and eastern Tenessee are caught in the throes of massive economic change, which challenges their assumptions about work, family, nation and community. This film chronicles nearly a decade of change in Morristown, Tennessee through interviews with displaced or low-wage Southern workers, Mexican immigrants, and workers and families impacted by globalization."

A short clip can seen here via the Austin, TX university website.

The movie was made with the assistance from both the Highlander Center (where you can order a DVD copy of "Morristown Video Letters", an early spin off of the project) in New Market, TN and the Appalshop in Kentucky, where you can pre-order copies of the movie and should have them available for sale in the very near future. Thanks to Anne for the details about the availability of her film.

Part of the movie examines the recent efforts of workers at the Koch Foods chicken processing plant to form a union. Workers overwhelming approved the move to unionize and cameras take you into the plant to witness working conditions there.

And while the movie hasn't gotten much attention in Tennesssee, audiences from Albuquerque to Minnesota are watching the story unfold.

(photo taken from the movie, shows Alfredo and Silvia Perez and their children in Juarez, Mexico)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Cup Of Joe Powell 2.0

So I had to switch to the new Blogger. This is the first post with the new Blogger. Not sure if the world will follow along here or not. Dang well better.

I will start using tags for posts as all the hep cats do.

Sure looks all clean and sparkly in the new digs, but I'm sure that won't last. Why not add a picture here just for good measure? (hmmmm ... not sure where I spotted this picture ... don't sue me.)

Halliburton Leaving U.S.?

I cannot say I am surprised to learn yet another giant corporation is leaving the U.S.

It will likely be a major benefit for stockholders, and may allow them to escape from troubling legal investigations into their practices and avoid taxation too. Halliburton is leaving the U.S. and headed into the Middle East.

The Freedonian has more on the story, noting:

The Halliburton contracts have to end and end immediately. A company that we know we can't trust has relocated to a nation we know we can't trust. If Iraq had a fraction of the connection to the 9/11 attacks that UAE had, attacking them would have been the right thing to do.

I'm not advocating attacking UAE. But they've already proven their willingness to take any investment we make in them and make it pay dividends in blood. Our government has a responsibility to the American people to not help fund the next attack on them."

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Designer Genitals

"It's a ripoff," says University of Tennessee at Memphis medical professor Thomas G Stovall, adding, that there is no scientific literature to back up the claims of a controversial surgical technique. The technique heralded by plastic surgeons and Dr. Stovall's warnings about it were featured in Friday's Washington Post.

The medical procedure is referred to as vaginal reconstruction and is based on a technique of firing a laser into a woman's gentials - Designer Vaginal Lasoplasty. Stovall adds that the claims of the process are more than dubious:

It's really a heresy promoting this. But sex sells."

Stovall, a former president of the Soceity of Gynecological Surgeons, is a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology.

The creator of the technique, Dr. David Matlock, often seen on E! TV on "Dr. 90210" promotes his surgery via the internet and claims he's performed thousands of such procedures and trained about 140 doctors to repeat his success. He says it's what women want, it's safe and it makes him tons of cash. One patient mentioned in the article didn't just have this one surgery - she had a whole series of them, what doctor called a "Wonder Woman Makeover":

"(31-year old single mother Julie Barrigan had)
several vaginal procedures, breast implants and a breast lift, abdominal liposuction and a "Brazilian butt augmentation," which involves reshaping the buttocks through a combination of liposuction and fat injections."

The act of intense body re-shaping and sculpting and lasering and injecting is a very personal decision. Maybe it helps and maybe it does not. I do know that surgery to re-shape and re-imagine the body is presented on The Entertainment Channel, which speaks volumes about the processes here. And I'm certain this type of "designer" body enhancements will continue to grow more popular.

Potions and promises to bring a new you into existence have been around as long as there have been people. Give it a science backdrop and a catchy advertisement, and the money follows. Dr. Matlock doesn't just offer a simple surgery - it's an Institute, with a Misson to "empower women with knowledge, choice and alternatives."