Saturday, June 09, 2007

Lessons in Blog Sarcasm

Some things I learned this week:

Wading deep into the mire and muck and into the witless hubris of some blogs dotting the cyberscape which are best referred to as My Sarcastic Ironic Metaphors Are Better Than Yours, I was reminded of three old sayings from old people.

First, from a conversation I had once on my grandfather's farm on summer day -- "Boy," he said, pointing to a steaming cowpie, "That there is bullshit. Now, it ain't got no use unless you use it as fertilizer. The difference between a human and a bull is that a bull will drop a big ol' pile of shit and walk away from it and a person will make a pile of shit and crow about how proud they are of it, polish it all up as if it would turn into solid gold and then go in search of more bullshit to make folks think they have mastered the art of goldsmithing."

Next, a quote from G.B. Shaw - "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place."

Third, Shaw also wisely notes, "I learned long ago never to wrestle with a pig, you get dirty and the pig likes it."

POSTSCRIPT: Nope, not going to link to the blogs of not-sarcastic-just bullshit wordgasms helmed by not-Generals and Meatless buffets, because my grandfather taught me to lead folks away and not into shit. Plus many Tennessee blogs including mine have given you much context on this topic all week. (If yer burnin' with desire to know details, use the email option in my profile.)

Friday, June 08, 2007

Camera Obscura - Extended Tom Hanks Pop-Fest; 'Diggers'; Raimi's FEARnet

Two movies fresh to DVD are very much worth the time (and money), one a new indie feature and the other is a massive extended director cut for "That Thing You Do!", written and directed by Tom Hanks, which tracks a 60s-era pop band as they rise and fall.

I highly recommend the Extended Cut for "That Thing You Do!" which was always infectious fun in it's first release. The story follows a 1964-era wanna-be pop band who move from the garage to national stardom in a rapid rise. The rise and the effects of sudden fame do not, however, detail a weird decent into excesses and self-destruction. Hanks, as both writer and director, keeps the focus on how both success and failure and the fleeting nature of fame are met with grace, how the characters treasure the joys the success brings, and how the bonds of friendship endure. Yeah, the movie isn't about people imploding, but about the optimism of the era.

This new DVD also contains the theatrical cut, but the Director's Cut is just a bit better. Either way, this is a real crowd-pleaser. What's new in the nearly 30-minutes of new footage? For one, the central character, Guy (Tom Everett Scott) gets a girlfriend we actually get to see, played by Charlize Theron. There are alos many more funny scenes about the band, about the record label's other acts, and a curious scene wherein manager Mr. White (Hanks) seems to be headed on a date - with a man.

Mix in the already great performances in the movie from Liv Tyler, Steve Zahn, Hanks and more. Hanks' script and direction are great examples of good character writing and sharp pacing.

Also of note, the tune, "That Thing You Do!" was penned by Adam Schlesinger, who has since gone on to play bass in the band Fountains of Wayne. You can order a copy of the movie by clicking on the banner below.


A recent indie feature which played to great response at the SXSW Film Festival last year is now on DVD and is titled "Diggers." The story here is one set in the mid-70s, about longtime friends all back in their Hamptons hometown on the East Coast and trying to make sense of how to continue a multi-generational lifestyle of being clam diggers. The ensemble cast includes Paul Rudd and Maura Tierney (and oh, what a crush I have on her - my brother in law Fred knows her and yes, I've sent messages via Fred that she rocks my world.) Where was I?

Oh yeah - "Diggers" is both dramatic and funny, a realistic slice of life about the burdens of traditioins, the yearning for freedom, and the effects of work and family and was written by (and features) KenMarino, who was a writer-performer on the cable comedy The State. Based partly on his own life, his story can be both heartbreaking and heartwarming. Here's a trailer for "Diggers:"

Order a copy of "Diggers" by clicking on the banner above.

: My thanks for getting to see both the above mentioned DVDs via M80. I love these guys who have sent me tons of great flicks in all genres and and I'm happy to say we'll continue to work together in the future!


The media empire created by Spiderman and Evil Dead franchises, director Sam Raimi, has expanded this week with the internet creation FEARnet. Web episodes, streaming movies, shorts, trailers, featurettes, behind-the-scenes, news and more from all things spooky from both newcomers and familiar filmmakers. The site started it's first web-series this on Wednesday.

I heart Sam Raimi.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Whew! The Awaited Vol Child Abroad Arrives

Much congrats to the Vol Abroad and family as wee young Cletus (whoops, make that William) has arrived.

Welcome to the planet Wee Vol! Some pics here.

Massive Property Tax Increase for City

I feel so sorry for the city residents in Morristown, since they have been so ill-informed and aware of city government policies but on the other hand, seeking information and accountability does not seem to be a priority either. The result is that the city is about to enact the largest tax increase in the city's history. Still, with the increase, the tax rate on property will be about $1.35 per $100 of assessed value, and perhaps residents are just gladly oblivious.

Oddities abound in the revelation that the city's finances are tanking. Such as - the information was not a topic among the recent city election in May. And since only a few thousand people bothered to even vote anyway, well, it's as if the residents just shrugged and went on to putter in the yard or watch some TV rather than vote. However, since info of an impending financial nightmare was absent, who can blame them?

The budget problems seem to be rooted in pie-in-the-sky projections from the city staff. They adopted previous budget plans based on the idea that sales tax growth would be about 5% over the next 5 years -- a 25% increase in city revenues got zero response from elected officials, though that is a massive increase, essentially doubling the real revenue activity. Local press calls it "stagnant sales tax collection" instead of "normal rate of collection, which was negligently overestimated".

And conveniently for elected officials, all this was absent info until after the elections ended.

A new garbage collection tax on city residents, rising insurance costs for the city, rising costs of (also grossly under-estimated) city-wide sewer system construction, pay hikes for city employees, expanding the ranks of the police department are just some of the post-election realities now being served up to residents.

I have thought for a long time that A.) I am very glad I am a county resident and not a city one. While city actions can have an impact on the county, since I do not live in nor vote in the city affairs, then there is not much I can do or say. Also at the county level, just about all those in charge of running the county are elected and not appointed, which leads me to the next point; B.) The source of the problem in my opinion is that the elected city council and mayor positions have no, or limited, impact on city policies and operations. The city's administrator runs the show and no one votes for who has that job other than the council itself, whose knowledge of the city's affairs are all filtered through that same administrator.

Yet continuing to rely on the people who failed you in such a large way -- would that happen in the private sector? I seriously doubt it. The overall cost of taxation may be small, but the mistakes that led to the budget woes were preventable. And the burden of fixing the mess is landing on the residents rather than on those who cause the mess.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

WKRN About To Lose Out

Terrible news from Brittney, who is resigning as blog hostess at Nashville Is Talking. She has been needlessly beaten and abused of late. I hope WKRN-TV realizes they need to rally to support her in a major way rather than allow her to be cut loose.

I respect her viewpoint and reasoning on wanting to go. The threats and hatred are frightening. Which again means to me the management at WKRN need to celebrate, elevate and embrace the enormous success her work has created. Like some others, I wonder if the new management at the station is pushing for her to go instead. Their loss. And a major one.

UPDATE: Fortunately, I do not think her voice could ever be silenced. In fact, she'll be getting a bit more kick ass at her own place, Sparkwood & 21.

Random Points on the Map of Joe

Is anything really random? Or is something else, like Mitochlorians maybe, coursing through us to design some vast unknowable quilt of life?

I do know a young and growing boy who is named Random, but I digress.

From the internets arrives today a meme, a tag event, from the impressive pages of Newscoma. The instructions are as follows:

"I just need to quickly write 8 random facts/habits about myself, then tag 8 people. If I tag you, you had better play."

Okey doke, I'm on it, NC.

1 -- First, I must say a random fact is that right here on the floor by my foot there has been a copy of "Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III" in the Uncut VHS version and it has been there for months now. It has not moved and I've been watching it daily and it just stays right where it is. I don't think I've watched anything on VHS on more than two years ... wait, no, I take that part back. I did watch my VHS copy of John Woo's "Hard Boiled" about two weeks ago. When Chow Yun-Fat plays a cop named Tequila and ends up rescuing babies from a maternity ward during a bajillion-gun slo-mo shoot-out, you have some serious entertainment. Viggo Mortensen is in "Leatherface" and the movie features the line "The Saw Is Family" but I still have yet to place that VHS in the VCR and watch it, so it just lays there like some demented dust-bunny.

2 -- Can a habit be random? I must remember to think about that.

3 -- This year I have not been fishing yet, which is a habit I used to have more intensely. I love to go fishing and am surrounded by some most excellent lakes. So I will have to go to it soon. Have I ever told you about the time I went fishing and lost my pants and had to run naked to my truck? It is a true story. I was crossing a dry (I thought) spot in the lake-bed one December day en route to my truck at a nearby state park. The not-dry lake-bed suddenly became an evil mud-bog and I was suddenly stuck chest-deep in the mud. Fearing for my life, the only safety tip I could think of was about what to do if you fell through some ice into a lake, which was to flatten my arms and what was unstuck of my upper body across the muddy ground. So I sank no further. I let go of my tackle box, which was in one hand, and used my fishing pole in the other hand to attempt to leverage my body out of the muck.

That's when I felt my sneakers go. Ah well, I thought, there is no getting those back as 70 percent of my body was still beneath the ground. I could see my truck, about 80 yards away, taunting me. Again, I used my fishing rod to leverage me up and that's when it started -- my jeans slid off of my backside and weirdly cool mud mingled freely with my nether regions and I stopped moving immediately sensing like a bona-fide psychic what would soon be my future mud-slimed naked self standing near the boat ramp of a state park.

I pondered my options for the next few moments. I noted the utter absence of any other people nearby and then considered trying to snake an arm down into the vice-like grip of mud surrounding me to snag the jeans. Putting more of me back into the muck was not an option. With great relief, I recalled that my wallet and my keys to the truck were in my tackle box, which was above ground. I took a deep breath and did what had to be done. Like those earthworms I had, at times, used as bait, I wriggled up from the dirt and mud inch by inch until I had a naked knee on the ground and the wind whipped about my muddy butt. As all of my legs emerged, the hole closed up behind me as if it never existed, my jeans and shoes forever a part of the earth's crust.

I stood for a moment, wearing only a muddy t-shirt, feeling like a primeval creature who dared approach the world bipedally. Snapping back into reality, I bolted for the truck somehow opening my tackle box in mid-flight to get my keys out. And then I realized that even once I reached the sanctuary of my vehicle, I still faced about a 15 minute ride home through heavy commuter traffic naked and covered in lake mud. Also, the impending naked run from truck to house. This was not over. I never veered from my goal, however. I was nakedly committed to finishing this episode. Suffice to say that driving naked was kinda fun, but not fun like you might repeat the act. True, I may have smiled more at the vehicles around me as I steered through school zones and shopping districts, especially when I was stopped at traffic lights. Finally home, I appreciated the usefulness of pants in a new way and to this day know that the lake ate my jeans and sneakers with extreme prejudice. Still, I survived to tell this tale.

4 -- Wow that last point was way to long. As a rule though, I have never ever fished naked. Just went home naked once.

5 -- I must remember to ask the guy at the record store when the new Beastie Boys is coming out. I wanna get that. Their new one will be an all instrumental album and those boys can play some funky grooves. (I really should not have told that story about me being naked.)

6 -- Really, I'm thinking I should not have told that.

7 -- This isn't going well is it? it's turned from a random fact/habit list into something else, but on the plus side, I'm almost done.

8 -- Whew! I reached number 8 and am almost done here. OK, one more random fact/habit. Ummm ... how about .... I collect old post cards and ... nope, all I can think now is how embarrassed I am that I told that naked fishing episode. Damn.

OK, that's my fulfillment of the Newscoma Directive. Next -- name some other blog writers to take on this project. How about:

Les Jones

Salem's Lots

The Freedonian


Tennessee Jed

Cherokee Sage Woman

Fine, that's only six. But I gotta go lay down now.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Wacky Funtime Blog Comments

It did not take long yesterday for the comments regarding a possible election race between two former Tennessee senators, Thompson and Gore, turned into a mish-mash of gibbering madness. While I appreciate that this humble but lovable blog was featured in the post at No Silence Here, I am even more grateful I did not get the comments that were generated there!

All that noise would have given me a headache.

Hooo-eeee, people. Such rabid indignation and creative assertions of fanciful notions do not make me swell with pride as reasoned discourse turns into ... well, I am not sure what all that noise is except noise. If one or the other of these Non-Official Candidates gets your corn to popping, I am happy for you. Still, if the talk in those comments represents the views of people who actually vote, then no wonder we get the politicians we get.

PS - I better give credit to The Editor for that "corn popping" phrase as she is the only one I've heard use it before.

UPDATE: More fine examples of comment insanity were visited today upon NiT. Such as "
And since we’re all being candid with each other, let me just say how much I revile “The South” and everything it stands for. Your whole claim to distinction versus other states is based on a failed revolt to keep your abominable practice of institutional racism, which most of you now fondly remember as your golden age. If there’s a problem here it’s only that Reconstruction ever ended.

Hoo-eee. Is the heat? Lack of fiber?

Tobacco Battle in Legislature

Last night the state Legislature gave their approval to raising the tax on cigarettes by 62 cents per pack. The increase is largely meant to do one thing - provide more money for education. Democrat Senator Jim Kyle sent an email out late last week noting that the new revenues would increase the state portion paid for the BEP funding formula for schools from 65 to 75 percent.

"By increasing state funds and reducing local government funds, your local government benefits tremendously. Home owners should expect and should demand lower property tax payments in the future because their local government will have a smaller obligation on its largest budget item.


What does this say about the Tennessee Senate? What does this say about Democrats and Republicans? I would say that it speaks volumes as to who can be trusted to lead our state. Please remember, for months Republicans said there were other ways to finance the education plan and the tobacco money was not needed, but in the end, Republicans did not fight the tax; they did not offer alternatives to the tax; they simply stood on the sidelines."

Tom Humphrey writes about the fierce battle in the Legislature, as Republicans attempted to tack on amendments to the bill, led mostly by Greeneville Republican David Hawk. Hawk wanted to earmark $100 million to go to the state's schools for construction costs. Since there are 195 school districts, the amount going to each school would have barely been a percentage of the typical costs of construction projects are in the tens of millions of dollars.

Paying more into the BEP at the state level means lower costs for funding by local governments, which typically pay for school funding increases through higher property taxes or through taxes for things like local wheel taxes. But will we actually see a local tax decrease? I sort of doubt it as local governments will likely decide they have other needs which MUST be paid for.

So smoke 'em if ya got 'em and if you can find a place that allows to smoke, and thanks for Volunteering to pay a new education tax.

Also see a wrap-up at Volunteer Voters.

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Hunt for Fred November

After watching former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson speak to a gathering of some 400 Virginia GOP fundraisers, I have realized what office he is seeking. He may not be seeking the office of George W. Bush, but he is certainly aiming to take over from Dick Cheney.

With grim faced-seriousness, Thompson was doing a first rate impression of Cheney. He blamed all ills on terrorism, Democrats, the Media and activist-judges. One comment that I found most spin-heavy and content-empty was the one where he railed against the Judiciary Branch, saying they had their priorities all wrong, that the government could seize private land for private development thru eminent domain but if you want to put a Nativity Scene on the Courthouse Lawn, you cannot. Huh??

It was a pure Rove-Speak event. While I was most curious to watch Thompson campaigning, what I saw was rather a sad continuation of the polices of the Cheney White House. Much anger, and much disappointment that the "media" was not telling the Good Stories.

And that pending Immigration Bill being pushed by President Bush? Thompson said it was all Teddy Kennedy's fault.

Guess he did not read the editorial last week by GOP guru Peggy Noonan, who said Bush's bill was the last straw and a sign for All Good Conservatives to Abandon Bush. She wrote that really, her disillusion (and the country's) has been growing for years:

What I came in time to believe is that the great shortcoming of this White House, the great thing it is missing, is simple wisdom. Just wisdom--a sense that they did not invent history, that this moment is not all there is, that man has lived a long time and there are things that are true of him, that maturity is not the same thing as cowardice, that personal loyalty is not a good enough reason to put anyone in charge of anything, that the way it works in politics is a friend becomes a loyalist becomes a hack, and actually at this point in history we don't need hacks."

Well then - welcome to the America that George Hath Made, Peggy.

You can watch Fred Thomspson's pre-campaign speech here at C-SPAN's Road to the White House.

For a news round-up of CNN's debate for Democrat candidates last night, go here.

--P.S. The phrase "Hunt for Fred November" was sported on buttons at the Virginia event for Thompson.